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LIBRARY 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

SANTA BARBARA 



PRESENTED BY 

ROSEMARY LIVSEY 



A SET OF SIX 




BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



Almateb's Folly 

An Outcast of the Islands 

Chance 

Falk 

Lord Jim : A Romance 

Mirror of the Sea, The 

Nigger of the "Narcissus," The 

Nostromo: a Tale of the Seaboabd 

Point of Honor, The 

Some Reminiscences 

Secret Agent, The 

Tales of Unrest 

'TwixT Land and Sea 

Typhoon and Other Stories 

T'nuer Western Eyes 

Youth : A Narrative 

WITH FORD M. HUEFFER 

Romance : A Novel 

The Inheritors: An Extravagant Stort 



A SET OF SIX 



BY 



JOSEPH CONRAD 



Les petites marionnettet 

Font, font, jont, 
Trois petits tours 

Ei puis s'en cont. 

NCRSEBY RHTM« 




GARDEN CITY NEW YORK 

DOUBLED AY, PAGE & COMPANY 
1915 



Copyright, 1908, by 
Doubled AY, Page & Company 



COmtlGBT, 1907. 1908, BT JOSCTH CONHiD 



To 
MISS M. H. M. CAPES 



CONTENTS 

FAOB 

Gaspar Ruiz 3 

The Informer 89 

The Brute 129 

An Anarchist 165 

The Duel 201 

II Conde 331 



AUTHOR'S NOTE 

" The Duel,'' the longest story in this volume^ has 
appeared already some years ago under the title " The 
Point of Honor" in the form of a small book adorned 
by a few clever illustrations; but at my urgent request 
Messrs. Doubleday, Page & Co. have agreed to 
reprint it in its proper place in the "Set of Six," 
under the title it bore in the first English edition. 

I don't think there is anything objectionable in 
this revival. On the contrary. The choice lay betiveen 
restoring that tale to its proper home and surroundings 
and the cutting down of the '"Set of Six" to a "Set of 
Five." 

But the "Set of Six" if not an organic whole, is a 
homogeneous group written with a certain unity of 
method. Moreover "The Duel" is, so far, my only 
attempt at historical fiction: as earnest an attempt 
as if the work were ten times its size. To see it 
dropped out of its place in the collection would have 
been very painful to my parental feelings. 

The return of this tale to the light of day has made 
me happy. The buyers of the volume will obtain 



X AUTHOR'S NOTE 

a good many more pages for their money — and that 
surely cannot be made a ground of complaint. Those 
who have read the tale on its first appearance by itself 
in the form of a little book can easily skip it in the 
collection. As to the possessors of the little book 
they may draw comfort from tJie thought that they own 
something which in time is likely to become a bibli- 
ographical curiosity of some value. 

The readers who may feel shocked or annoyed at 
meeting an old acquaintance under another name are 
begged to accept my apologies. This is entirely my 
own doing, I have insisted on the reinstatement 
of the original title as if it were something of extreme 
importance. Why it should appear so to me I can't 
explain very well. It is a matter of sentiment in 
ivhich I have been very kindly humoured by Messrs. 
Doubleday, Page & Co. It was an amiable weak- 
ness on their part which my readers, who I trust are 
also my friends, vdll scarcely count them for a criine. 

Joseph Conrad. 



A ROMANTIC TALE 




CASPAR RUIZ 



A REVOLUTIONARY war raises many strange 
characters out of the obscurity which is the 
common lot of humble lives in an undisturbed 
state of society. 

Certain individualities grow into fame through their 
vices and their virtues, or simply by their actions, 
which may have a temporary importance; and then they 
become forgotten. The names of a few leaders alone 
survive the end of armed strife and are further pre- 
served in history; so that, vanishing from men's active 
memories, they still exist in books. 

The name of Ceneral Santierra attained that cold 
paper-and-ink immortality. He was a South American, 
of good family, and the books published in his lifetime 
numbered him amongst the liberators of that continent 
from the oppressive rule of Spain. 

That long contest, waged for independence on one 
side and for dominion on the other, developed in the 
course of years and the vicissitudes of changing fortune 
the fierceness and inhumanity of a struggle for life. All 
feelings of pity and compassion disappeared in the 

s 



4 A SET OF SIX 

growth of political hatred. And, as is usual in war, the 
mass of the people, who had the least to gain by the 
issue, suffered most in their obscure persons and their 
humble fortunes. 

General Santierra began his service as lieutenant in 
the patriot army raised and commanded by the famous 
San Martin, afterward conqueror of Lima and liber- 
ator of Peru. A great battle had just been fought on 
the banks of the river Bio-Bio. Amongst the prisoners 
made upon the routed Royalist troops there was a 
soldier called Caspar Ruiz. His powerful build and his 
big head rendered him remarkable amongst his fellow- 
captives. The personality of the man was unmistak- 
able. Some months before he had been missed from the 
ranks of Republican troops after one of the many skir- 
mishes which preceded the great battle. And now, hav- 
ing been captured arms in hand amongst Royalists, he 
could expect no other fate but to be shot as a deserter. 

Caspar Ruiz, however, was not a deserter; his mind 
was hardly active enough to take a discriminating view 
of the advantages or perils of treachery. Why should 
he change sides.'' He had really been made a prisoner, 
had suffered ill-usage and many privations. Neither 
side showed tenderness to its adversaries. There came 
a day when he was ordered, together with some other 
captured rebels, to march in the front rank of the Royal 
troops. A musket had been thrust into his hands. 
He had taken it. He had marched. He did not want 



CASPAR RUIZ 5 

to be killed with circumstances of peculiar atrocity for 
refusing to march. He did not understand heroism, 
but it was his intention to throw his musket away at 
the first opportunity. Meantime, he had gone on load- 
ing and firing, from fear of having his brains blown out, 
at the first sign of unwillingness, by some non-com- 
missioned officer of the King of Spain. He tried to 
set forth these elementary considerations before the 
sergeant of the guard set over him and some twenty 
other such deserters, who had been condemned sum- 
marily to be shot. 

It was in the quadrangle of the fort at the back of 
the batteries which command the roadstead of Val- 
paraiso. The officer who had identified him had gone 
on without listening to his protestations. His doom 
was sealed; his hands were tied very tightly together 
behind his back; his body was sore all over from the 
many blows with sticks and butts of muskets which had 
hurried him along on the painful road from the place of 
his capture to the gate of the fort. This was the only 
kind of systematic attention the prisoners had received 
from their escort during a four days' journey across a 
scantily watered tract of country. At the crossings of 
rare streams they were permitted to quench their thirst 
by lapping hurriedly like dogs. In the evening a few 
scraps of meat were thrown amongst them as they 
dropped down dead-beat upon the stony ground of the 
halting-place. 



6 A SET OF SIX 

As he stood in the courtyard of the castle in the 
early morning, after having been driven hard all night, 
Caspar Ruiz* throat was parched, and his tongue felt 
very large and dry in his mouth. 

And Gaspar Ruiz, besides being very thirsty, was 
stirred by a feeling of sluggish anger, which he could 
not very well express, as though the vigour of his spirit 
were by no means equal to the strength of his body. 

The other prisoners in the batch of the condemned 
hung their heads, looking obstinately on the ground. 
But Gaspar Ruiz kept on repeating: "What should I 
desert for to the Royalists? Why should I desert? 
Tellme, Estaban!" 

He addressed himself to the sergeant, who happened 
to belong to the same part of the country as himself. 
But the sergeant, after shrugging his meagre shoulders 
once, paid no further attention to the deep murmuring 
voice at his back. It was indeed strange that Gaspar 
Ruiz should desert. His people were in too humble 
a station to feel much the disadvantages of any form 
of government. There was no reason why Gaspar Ruiz 
should wish to uphold in his own person the rule of 
the King of Spain. Neither had he been anxious to 
exert himself for its subversion. He had joined the 
side of Independence in an extremely reasonable and 
natural manner. A band of patriots appeared one 
morning early, surrounding his father's ranche, spearing 
the watch-dogs and hamstringing a fat cow all in the 



CASPAR RUIZ 7 

twinkling of an eye, to the cries of *' Viva la Libertad!** 
Their oflBcer discoursed of Liberty with enthusiasm and 
eloquence after a long and refreshing sleep. When 
they left in the evening, taking with them some of 
Ruiz, the father's, best horses to replace their own 
lamed animals, Gaspar Ruiz went away with them, 
having been invited pressingly to do so by the eloquent 
officer. 

Shortly afterward a detachment of Royalist troops, 
coming to pacify the district, burnt the ranche, carried 
off the remaining horses and cattle, and having thus 
deprived the old people of all their wordly possessions, 
left them sitting under a bush in the enjoyment of the 
inestimable boon of life. 

n 

Caspar Ruiz, condemned to death as a deserter, 
was not thinking either of his native place or of his 
parents, to whom he had been a good son on account 
of the mildness of his character and the great strength 
of his limbs. The practical advantage of this last was 
made still more valuable to his father by his obedient 
disposition. Caspar Ruiz had an acquiescent soul. 

But it was stirred now to a sort of dim revolt by 
his dislike to die the death of a traitor. He was not a 
traitor. He said again to the sergeant: "You know 
I did not desert, Estaban. You know I remained 
behind amongst the trees with three others to keep 



8 A SET OF SIX 

the enemy back while the detachment was running 
away!" 

Lieutenant Santierra, little more than a boy at the 
time, and unused as yet to the sanguinary imbecilities 
of a state of war, had lingered near-by, as if fascinated 
by the sight of these men who were to be shot pres- 
ently — "for an example" — as the Commandante had 
said. 

The sergeant, without deigning to look at the pris- 
oner, addressed himself to the young officer with a 
superior smile: 

"Ten men would not have been enough to make 
him a prisoner, mi teniente. Moreover, the other three 
rejoined the detachment after dark. Why should he, 
unwounded and the strongest of them all, have failed to 
do so?" 

"My strength is as nothing against a mounted man 
with a lasso," Gaspar Ruiz protested eagerly. "He 
dragged me behind his horse for half a mile." 

At this excellent reason the sergeant only laughed 
contemptuously. The young officer hurried away after 
the Commandante. 

Presently the adjutant of the castle came by. He 
was a truculent, raw-boned man in a ragged uniform. 
His spluttering voice issued out of a flat, yellow face. 
The sergeant learned from him that the condemned 
men would not be shot till sunset. He begged then 
to know what he was to do with them meantime. 



CASPAR RUIZ 9 

The adjutant looked savagely round the courtyard, 
and, pointing to the door of a small dungeonlike 
guardroom, receiving light and air through one heavily 
barred window, said: "Drive the scoundrels in there." 

The sergeant, tightening his grip upon the stick he 
carried in virtue of his rank, executed this order with 
alacrity and zeal. He hit Caspar Ruiz, whose move- 
ments were slow, over his head and shoulders. Caspar 
Ruiz stood still for a moment under the shower of 
blows, biting his lip thoughtfully as if absorbed by a 
perplexing mental process — then followed the others 
without haste. The door was locked, and the adjutant 
carried off the key. 

By noon the heat of that low vaulted place crammed 
to suffocation had become unbearable. The prisoners 
crowded toward the window, begging their guards for 
a drop of water; but the soldiers remained lying in 
indolent attitudes wherever there was a little shade 
under a wall, while the sentry sat with his back against 
the door smoking a cigarette, and raising his eyebrows 
philosophically from time to time. Caspar Ruiz had 
pushed his way to the window with irresistible force. 
His capacious chest needed more air than the others ; his 
big face, resting with its chin on the ledge, pressed 
close to the bars, seemed to support the other faces 
crowding up for breath. From moaned entreaties they 
had passed to desperate cries, and the tumultuous howl- 
ing of those thirsty men obliged a young officer who 



10 "^ A SET OF SIX 

was just then crossing the courtyard to shout in order 
to make himself heard. 

** Why don't you give some water to these prisoners ? " 

The sergeant, with an air of surprised innocence, 
excused himself by the remark that all those men were 
condemned to die in a very few hours. 

Lieutenant Santierra stamped his foot. "They are 
condemned to death, not to torture," he shouted. 
"Give them some water at once." 

Impressed by this appearance of anger, the soldiers 
bestirred themselves, and the sentry, snatching up his 
musket, stood to attention. 

But when a couple of buckets were found and filled 
from the well, it was discovered that they could not be 
passed through the bars, which were set too close. At 
the prospect of quenching their thirst, the shrieks of 
those trampled down in the struggle to get near the 
opening became very heartrending. But when the 
soldiers who had lifted the buckets toward the window 
put them to the ground again helplessly, the yell of 
disappointment was still more terrible. 

The soldiers of the army of Independence were not 
equipped with canteens. A small tin cup was found, 
but its approach to the opening caused such a com- 
motion, such yells of rage and pain in the vague mass 
of limbs behind the straining faces at the window, that 
Lieutenant Santierra cried out hurriedly: "No, no — you 
must open the door. Sergeant." 



GASPAR RUIZ 11 

The sergeant, shrugging his shoulders, explained 
that he had no right to open the door even if he had 
had the key. But he had not the key. The adjutant 
of the garrison kept the key. Those men were giving 
much unnecessary trouble, since they had to die at sun- 
set in any case. Why they had not been shot at once 
early in the morning he could not understand. 

Lieutenant Santierra kept his back studiously to the 
window. It was at his earnest solicitations that the 
Commandanie had delayed the execution. This favour 
had been granted to him in consideration of his dis- 
tinguished family and of his father's high position 
amongst the chiefs of the Republican party. Lieuten- 
ant Santierra believed that the General commanding 
would visit the fort some time in the afternoon, and he 
ingenuously hoped that his naive intercession would 
induce that severe man to pardon some, at least, of 
those criminals. In the revulsion of his feeling his 
interference stood revealed now as guilty and futile 
meddling. It appeared to him obvious that the Gen- 
eral would never even consent to listen to his petition. 
He could never save those men, and he had only made 
himself responsible for the sufferings added to the 
cruelty of their fate. 

"Then go at once and get the key from the ad- 
jutant," said Lieutenant Santierra. 

The sergeant shook his head with a sort of bashful 
smile, while his eyes glanced sideways at Gaspar Ruiz* 



12 A SET OF SIX 

face, motionless and sileat, staring through the bars at 
the bottom of a heap of other haggard, distorted, yelHng 
faces. 

His worship the Adjutant de Plaza, the sergeant 
murmured, was having his siesta; and supposing that 
he, the sergeant, would be allowed access to him, the 
only result he expected would be to have his soul 
flogged out of his body for presuming to disturb his 
worship's repose. He made a deprecatory movement 
with his hands, and stood stock-still, looking down 
modestly upon his brown toes. 

Lieutenant Santierra glared with indignation, but 
hesitated. His handsome oval face, as smooth as a 
girl's, flushed with the shame of his perplexity. Its 
nature humiliated his spirit. His hairless upper lip 
trembled; he seemed on the point of either bursting 
into a fit of rage or into tears of dismay. 

Fifty years later. General Santierra, the venerable 
relic of revolutionary times, was well able to remem- 
ber the feelings of the young lieutenant. Since he had 
given up riding altogether, and found it difficult to 
walk beyond the limits of his garden, the General's 
greatest delight was to entertain in his house the 
officers of the foreign men-of-war visiting the harbour. 
For Englishmen he had a preference, as for old com- 
panions in arms. English naval men of all ranks 
accepted his hospitality with curiosity, because he had 
known Lord Cochrane and had taken part, on board 



GASPAR RUIZ 13 

the patriot squadron commanded by that marvellous 
seaman, in the cutting out and blockading operations 
before Callao — an episode of unalloyed glory in the 
wars of Independence and of endless honour in the 
fighting tradition of Englishmen. He was a fair lin- 
guist, this ancient survivor of the Liberating armies. A 
trick of smoothing his long white beard whenever he 
was short of a word in French or English imparted an 
air of leisurely dignity to the tone of his reminiscences. 

Ill 

"Yes, my friends," he used to say to his guests, 
"what would you have.'' A youth of seventeen sum- 
mers, without worldly experience, and owing my rank 
only to the glorious patriotism of my father, may God 
rest his soul. I suffered immense humiliation, not so 
much from the disobedience of that subordinate, who, 
after all, was responsible for those prisoners; but I 
suffered because, like the boy I was, I myself dreaded 
going to the adjutant for the key. I had felt, before, 
his rough and cutting tongue. Being quite a common 
fellow, with no merit except his savage valour, he made 
me feel his contempt and dislike from the first day I 
joined my battalion in garrison at the fort. It was only 
a fortnight before ! I would have confronted him sword 
in hand, but I shrank from the mocking brutality of his 
sneers. 

*'I don't remember having been so miserable in my 



14 A SET OF SIX 

life before or since. The torment of my sensibility 
was so great that I wished the sergeant to fall dead at 
my feet, and the stupid soldiers who stared at me to 
turn into corpses; and even those wretches for whom 
my entreaties had procured a reprieve I wished dead 
also, because I could not face them without shame. A 
mephitic heat like a whiff of air from hell came out of 
that dark place in which they were confined. Those at 
the window who had heard what was going on jeered at 
me in very desperation : one of these fellows, gone mad 
no doubt, kept on urging me volubly to order the sol- 
diers to fire through the window. His insane loquacity 
made my heart turn faint. And my feet were like lead. 
There was no higher officer to whom I could appeal. 
I had not even the firmness of spirit to simply go away. 

** Benumbed by my remorse, I stood with my back 
to the window. You must not suppose that all this 
lasted a long time. How long could it have been? A 
minute.'' If you measured by mental suffering it wa.'" 
like a hundred years; a longer time than all my life 
has been since. No, certainly, it was not so much as a 
minute. The hoarse screaming of those miserable 
wretches died out in their dry throats, and then sud- 
denly a voice spoke, a deep voice muttering calmly. 
It called upon me to turn round. 

"That voice, seflores, proceeded from the head of 
Gaspar Ruiz. Of his body I could see nothing. Some 
of his fellow-captives had clambered upon his back. 



GASPAR RUIZ 15 

He was holding them up. His eyes bhnked without 
looking at me. That and the moving of his lips was all 
he seemed able to manage in his overloaded state. And 
when I turned round, this head, that seemed more than 
human size resting on its chin under a multitude of 
other heads, asked me whether I really desired to 
quench the thirst of the captives. 

"I said, *Yes, yes!' eagerly, and came up quite 
close to the window. I was like a child, and did not 
know what would happen. I was anxious to be com- 
forted in my helplessness and remorse. 

*' 'Have you the authority, 5^nor teniente, to release my 
wrists from their bonds. f* ' Gaspar Ruiz' head asked me. 

"His features expressed no anxiety, no hope; his 
heavy eyelids blinked upon his eyes that looked past 
me straight into the courtyard. 

*'As if in an ugly dream, I spoke, stammering: 
'What do you mean.^ And how can I reach the bonds 
on your wrists ? ' 

"*I will try what I can do,' he said; and then that 
large staring head moved at last, and all the wild faces 
piled up in that window disappeared, tumbling down. 
He had shaken his load off with one movement, so 
strong he was. 

"And he had not only shaken it off, but he got free 
of the crush and vanished from my sight. For a 
moment there was no one at all to be seen at the win- 
dow. He had swung about, butting and shouldering. 



16 A SET OF SIX 

clearing a space for himself in the only way he could do 
it with his hands tied behind his back. 

"Finally, backing to the opening, he pushed out to 
me between the bars his wrists, lashed with many turns 
of rope. His hands, very swollen, with knotted veins, 
looked enormous and unwieldy. I saw his bent back. 
It was very broad. His voice was like the muttering 
of a bull. 

" ' Cut, senor teniente. Cut ! ' 

"I drew my sword, my new unblunted sword that 
had seen no service as yet, and severed the many turns 
of the hide rope. I did this without knowing the why 
and the wherefore of my action, but as it were com- 
pelled by my faith in that man. The sergeant made as 
if to cry out, but astonishment deprived him of his 
voice, and he remained standing with his mouth open, 
as if overtaken by sudden imbecility. 

"I sheathed my sword and faced the soldiers. An 
air of awestruck expectation had replaced their usual 
listless apathy. I heard the voice of Caspar Ruiz 
shouting inside, but the w^ords I could not make out 
plainly. I suppose that to see him with his arms free 
augmented the influence of his strength: I mean by 
this, the spiritual influence that with ignorant people 
attaches to an exceptional degree of bodily vigour. In 
fact, he was no more to be feared than before, on 
account of the numbness of his arms and hands, which 
lasted for some time. 



CASPAR RUIZ 17 

"The sergeant had recovered his power of speech. 
'By all the saints!' he cried, 'we shall have to get a 
cavalry man with a lasso to secure him again, if he is 
to be led to the place of execution. Nothing less than 
a good enlazador on a good horse can subdue him. 
Your worship was pleased to perform a very mad thing.' 

"I had nothing to say. I was surprised myself, 
and I felt a childish curiosity to see what would happen. 
But the sergeant was thinking of the difficulty of 
controlling Caspar Ruiz when the time for making an 
example would come. 

*"0r perhaps,' the sergeant pursued vexedly, *we 
shall be obliged to shoot him down as he dashes out 
when the door is opened.' He was going to give fur- 
ther vent to his anxieties as to the proper carrying out 
of the sentence; but he interrupted himself with a 
sudden exclamation, snatched a musket from a soldier, 
and stood watchful with his eyes fixed on the window. 

IV 

** Caspar Ruiz had clambered up on the sill, and sat 
down there with his feet against the thickness of the 
wall and his knees slightly bent. The window was not 
quite broad enough for the length of his legs. It 
appeared to my crestfallen perception that he meant 
to keep the window all to himself. He seemed to be 
taking up a comfortable position. Nobody inside dared 
to approach him now he could strike with his hands. 



18 A SET OF SIX 

"'Por Dios!' I heard the sergeant muttering at my 
elbow, * I shall shoot him through the head now, and 
get rid of that trouble. He is a condemned man.' 

"At that I looked at him angrily. 'The General has 
not confirmed the sentence,' I said, though I knew well 
in my heart that these were but vain words. The sen- 
tence required no confirmation. 'You have no right to 
shoot him unless he tries to escape,' I added firmly. 

*"But sangre de DiosT the sergeant yelled out, 
bringing his musket up to the shoulder, 'he is escaping 
now. Look!' 

"But I, as if that Caspar Ruiz had cast a spell 
upon me, struck the musket upward, and the bullet 
flew over the roofs somewhere. The sergeant dashed 
his arm to the ground and stared. He might have com- 
manded the soldiers to fire, but he did not. And if he 
had he would not have been obeyed, I think, just then. 

"With his feet against the thickness of the wall, 
and his hairy hands grasping the iron bar, Gaspar 
sat still. It was an attitude. Nothing happened for a 
time. And suddenly it dawned upon us that he was 
straightening his bowed back and contracting his arms. 
His lips were twisted into a snarl. Next thing we per- 
ceived was that the bar of forged iron was being bent 
slowly by the mightiness of his pull. The sun was 
beating full upon his cramped, unquivering figure. A 
shower of sweat-drops burst out of his forehead. 
Watching the bar grow crooked, I saw a little blood 



CASPAR RUIZ 19 

ooze from under his finger-nails. Then he let go. For 
a moment he remained all huddled up, with a hanging 
head, looking drowsily into the upturned palms of his 
mighty hands. Indeed he seemed to have dozed off. 
Suddenly he flung himself backward on the sill, and 
setting the soles of his bare feet against the other 
middle bar, he bent that one, too, but in the opposite 
direction from the first. 

*'Such was his strength, which in this case relieved 
my painful feelings. And the man seemed to have 
done nothing. Except for the change of position in 
order to use his feet, which made us all start by its 
swiftness, my recollection is that of immobility. But he 
had bent the bars wide apart. And now he could get 
out if he liked; but he dropped his legs inward, and look- 
ing over his shoulder beckoned to the soldiers. 'Hand 
up the water,' he said. 'I will give them all a drink.' 

"He was obeyed. For a moment I expected man 
and bucket to disappear, overwhelmed by the rush of 
eagerness; I thought they would pull him down with 
their teeth. There was a rush, but holding the bucket 
on his lap he repulsed the assault of those wretches by 
the mere swinging of his feet. They flew backward at 
every kick, yelling with pain; and the soldiers laughed, 
gazing at the window. 

"They all laughed, holding their sides, except the 
sergeant, who was gloomy and morose. He was afraid 
the prisoners would rise and break out — which would 



20 A SET OF SIX 

have been a bad example. But there was no fear of 
that, and I stood myself before the window with my 
drawn sword. When sufficiently tamed by the strength 
of Gaspar Ruiz they came up one by one, stretching 
their necks and presenting their lips to the edge of the 
bucket which the strong man tilted toward them from 
his knees with an extraordinary air of charity, gentle- 
ness, and compassion. That benevolent appearance 
was of course the effect of his care in not spilling the 
water and of his attitude as he sat on the sill; for, if a 
man lingered with his lips glued to the rim of the bucket 
after Gaspar Ruiz had said 'You have had enough,' 
there would be no tenderness or mercy in the shove of 
the foot which would send him groaning and doubled 
up far into the interior of the prison, where he would 
knock down two or three others before he fell himself. 
They came up to him again and again; it looked as if 
they meant to drink the well dry before going to their 
death; but the soldiers were so amused by Gaspar 
Ruiz' systematic proceedings that they carried the 
water up to the window cheerfully. 

"When the adjutant came out after his siesta there 
was some trouble over this affair, I can assure you. 
And the worst of it was that the General whom we 
expected never came to the castle that day." 

The guests of General Santierra unanimously ex- 
pressed their regret that the man of such strength and 
patience had not been saved. 



CASPAR RUIZ 21 

"He was not saved by my interference," said the 
General. "The prisoners were led to execution half an 
hour before sunset. Caspar Ruiz, contrary to the 
sergeant's apprehensions, gave no trouble. There was 
no necessity to get a cavalry man with a lasso in order to 
subdue him, as if he were a wild bull of the campo. I 
believe he marched out with his arms free amongst 
the others who were bound. I did not see. I was not 
there. I had been put under arrest for interfering with 
the prisoner's guard. About dusk, sitting dismally in 
ray quarters, I heard three volleys fired, and thought 
that I should never hear of Caspar Ruiz again. He fell 
with the others. But we were to hear of him neverthe- 
less, though the sergeant boasted that, as he lay on his 
face expiring or dead in the heap of the slain, he had 
slashed his neck with a sword. He had done this, he 
said, to make sure of ridding the world of a dangerous 
traitor. 

"I confess to you, senores, that I thought of that 
strong man with a sort of gratitude, and with some 
admiration. He had used his strength honourably. 
There dwelt, then, in his soul no fierceness corresponding 
to the vigour of his body." 



Caspar Ruiz, who could with ease bend apart the 
heavy iron bars of the prison, was led out with others to 
summary execution. "Every bullet has its billet,'* 



22 A SET OF SIX 

runs the proverb. All the merit of proverbs consists 
in the concise and picturesque expression. In the 
surprise of our minds is found their persuasiveness. In 
other words, we are struck and convinced by the shock. 

What surprises us is the form, not the substance. 
Proverbs are art — cheap art. As a general rule they 
are not trufe; unless indeed they happen to be mere 
platitudes, as for instance the proverb, ''Half a loaf is 
better than no bread," or '* A miss is as good as a mile." 
Some proverbs are simply imbecile, others are immoral. 
That one evolved out of the naive heart of the great 
Russian people, "Man discharges the piece, but God 
carries the bullet," is piously atrocious, and at bitter 
variance with the accepted conception of a compassion- 
ate God. It would indeed be an inconsistent occupa- 
tion for the Guardian of the poor, the innocent, and the 
helpless, to carry the bullet, for instance, into the heart 
of a father. 

Gaspar Ruiz was childless, he had no wife, he had 
never been in love. He had hardly ever spoken to a 
woman, beyond his mother and the ancient negress of 
the household, whose wrinkled skin was the colour of 
cinders, and whose lean body was bent double from age. 
If some bullets from those muskets fired off at fifteen 
paces were specifically destined for the heart of Gaspar 
Ruiz, they all missed their billet. One, however, car- 
ried away a small piece of his ear, and another a frag- 
ment of flesh from his shoulder. 



CASPAR RUIZ 23 

A red and unclouded sun setting into a purple ocean 
looked with a fiery stare upon the enormous wall of 
the Cordilleras, worthy witnesses of his glorious ex- 
tinction. But it is inconceivable that it should have 
seen the antlike men busy with their absurd and in- 
significant trials of killing and dying for reasons that, 
apart from being generally childish, were also imper- 
fectly understood. It did light up, however, the 
backs of the firing party and the faces of the condemned 
men. Some of them had fallen on their knees, others 
remained standing, a few averted their heads from the 
levelled barrels of muskets. Caspar Ruiz, upright, the 
burliest of them all, hung his big shock head. The low 
sun dazzled him a little, and he counted himself a dead 
man already. 

He fell at the first discharge. He fell because he 
thought he was a dead man. He struck the ground 
heavily. The jar of the fall surprised him. "I am not 
dead apparently," he thought to himself, when he heard 
the execution platoon reloading its arms at the word of 
command. It was then that the hope of escape dawned 
upon him for the first time. He remained lying 
stretched out with rigid limbs under the weight of two 
bodies collapsed crosswise upon his back. 

By the time the soldiers had fired a third volley 
into the slightly stirring heaps of the slain, the sun had 
gone out of sight, and almost immediately with the 
darkening of the ocean dusk fell upon the coasts of the 



24 A SET OF SIX 

young Republic. Above the gloom of the lowlands the 
snowy peaks of the Cordilleras remained luminous and 
crimson for a long time. The soldiers before marching 
back to the fort sat down to smoke. 

The sergeant with a naked sword in his hand strolled 
away by himself along the heap of the dead. He was 
a humane man, and watched for any stir or twitch of 
limb in the merciful idea of plunging the point of his 
blade into any body giving the slightest sign of life. 
But none of the bodies afforded him an opportunity for 
the display of this charitable intention. Not a muscle 
twitched amongst them, not even the powerful muscles 
of Caspar Ruiz, who, deluged with the blood of his 
neighbours and shamming death, strove to appear more 
lifeless than the others. 

He was lying face down. The sergeant recognized 
him by his stature, and being himself a very small man, 
looked with envy and contempt at the prostration of so 
much strength. He had always disliked that particular 
soldier. Moved by an obscure animosity, he inflicted a 
long gash across the neck of Caspar Ruiz, with some 
vague notion of making sure of that strong man's death, 
as if a powerful physique were more able to resist the 
bullets. For the sergeant had no doubt that Caspar 
Ruiz had been shot through in many places. Then he 
passed on, and shortly afterward marched off with his 
men, leaving the bodies to the care of crows and 
vultures. 



CASPAR RUIZ 25 

Gaspar Ruiz had restrained a cry, though it Iiad 
seemed to him that his head was cut off at a blow; and 
when darkness came, shaldng off the dead, whose 
weight had oppressed him, he crawled away over the 
plain on his hands and knees. After drinking deeply, 
like a wounded beast, at a shallow stream, he assumed 
an upright posture, and staggered on light-headed and 
aimless, as if lost amongst the stars of the clear night. 
A small house seemed to rise out of the ground before 
him. He stumbled into the porch and struck at the 
door with his fist. There was not a gleam of light. 
Gaspar Ruiz might have thought that the inhabitants 
had fled from it, as from many others in the neigh- 
bourhood, had it not been for the shouts of abuse that 
answered his thumping. In his feverish and enfeebled 
state the angry screaming seemed to him part of a 
hallucination belonging to the weird dreamlike feeling 
of his unexpected condemnation to death, of the thirst 
suffered, of the volleys fired at him within fifteen paces, 
of his head being cut off at a blow. "Open the door!" 
he cried. " Open in the name of God! " 

An infuriated voice from within jeered at him: 
"Come in, come in. This house belongs to you. All 
this land belongs to you. Come and take it." 

"For the love of God," Gaspar Ruiz murmured. 

"Does not all the land belong to you patriots?" the 
voice on the other side of the door screamed on. "Are 
you not a patriot.'*" 



26 A SET OF SIX 

Caspar Ruiz did not know. "I am a wounded 
man," he said apathetically. 

All became still inside. Gaspar Ruiz lost the hope of 
being admitted, and lay down under the porch just 
cutside the door. He was utterly careless of what was 
going to happen to him. All his consciousness seemed 
to be concentrated in his neck, where he felt a severe 
pain. His indifference as to his fate was genuine. 

The day was breaking when he awoke from a feverish 
doze; the door at which he had knocked in the dark 
stood wide open now, and a girl, steadying herself with 
her outspread arms, leaned over the threshold. Lying 
on his back, he stared up at her. Her face was pale and 
her eyes were very dark; her hair hung down black as 
ebony against her white cheeks; her lips were full and 
red. Beyond her he saw another head with long gray 
hair, and a thin old face with a pair of anxiously clasped 
hands under the chin. 

"I knew those people by sight," General Santierra 
would tell his guests at the dining-table. *'I mean the 
people with whom Gaspar Ruiz found shelter. The 
father was an old Spaniard, a man of property ruined 
by the revolution. His estates, his house in town, 
his money, everything he had in the world had been 
confiscated by proclamation, for he was a bitter foe 
of our independence. From a position of great dignity 



CASPAR RUIZ 27 

and influence on the Viceroy's Council he became of less 
importance than his own negro slaves made free by our 
glorious revolution. He had not even the means to flee 
the country, as other Spaniards had managed to do. 
It may be that, wandering ruined and houseless, and 
burdened with nothing but his life, which was left to 
him by the clemency of the Provisional Government, he 
had simply walked under that broken roof of old tiles. 
It was a lonely spot. There did not seem to be even a 
dog belonging to the place. But though the roof had 
holes, as if a cannon-ball or two had dropped through 
it, the wooden shutters were thick and tight-closed all 
the time. 

"My way took me frequently along the path in 
front of that miserable rancho. I rode from the fort to 
the town almost every evening, to sigh at the window 
of a lady I was in love with, then. When one is young, 
you understand. . . . She was a good patriot, you 
may believe. Caballeros, credit me or not, political 
feeling ran so high in those days that I do not believe 
I could have been fascinated by the charms of a woman 
of Royalist opinions. . . ." 

Murmurs of amused incredulity all round the table 
interrupted the General; and while they lasted he 
stroked his white beard gravely. 

"Senores," he protested, "a Royalist was a monster 
to our overwrought feelings. I am telling you this in 
order not to be suspected of the slightest tenderness 



28 A SET OF SIX 

toward that old Royalist's daughter. Moreover, as you 
know, my affections were engaged elsewhere. But I 
could not help noticing her on rare occasions when with 
the front door open she stood in the porch. 

"You must know that this old Royalist was as crazy 
as a man can be. His political misfortunes, his total 
downfall and ruin, had disordered his mind. To show 
his contempt for what we patriots could do, he affected 
to laugh at his imprisonment, at the confiscation of his 
lands, the burning of his houses, and at the misery to 
which he and his womenfolk were reduced. This habit 
of laughing had grown upon him, so that he would begin 
to laugh and shout directly he caught sight of any 
stranger. That was the form of his madness. 

"I, of course, disregarded the noise of that madman 
with that feeling of superiority the success of our cause 
inspired in us Americans. I suppose I really despised 
him because he was an old Castilian, a Spaniard born, 
and a Royahst. Those were certainly no reasons to 
scorn a man; but for centuries Spaniards born had 
shown their contempt of us Americans, men as well 
descended as themselves, simply because we were what 
they called colonists. We had been kept in abasement 
and made to feel our inferiority in social intercourse. 
And now it was our turn. It was safe for us patriots 
to display the same sentiments; and I being a young 
patriot, son of a patriot, despised that old Spaniard, and 
despising him I naturally disregarded his abuse, though 



CASPAR RUIZ 29 

it was annoying to my feelings. Others perhaps would 
not have been so forbearing. 

"He would begin with a great yell: 'I see a patriot. 
Another of them!' long before I came abreast of the 
house. The tone of his senseless revilings, mingled 
with bursts of laughter, was sometimes piercingly 
shrill and sometimes grave. It was all very mad; but 
I felt it incumbent upon my dignity to check my horse 
to a walk without even glancing toward the house, as 
if that man's abusive clamour in the porch were less 
than the barking of a cur. /Always I rode by pre- 
serving an expression of haughty indifference on my 
face. 

"It was no doubt very dignified; but I should have 
done better if I had kept my eyes open. A mili- 
tary man in war time should never consider himself off 
duty; and especially so if the war is a revolutionary 
war, when the enemy is not at the door, but within 
your very house. At such times the heat of passionate 
convictions, passing into hatred, removes the re- 
straints of honour and humanity from many men and 
of delicacy and fear from some women. These last, 
when once they throw off the timidity and reserve of 
their sex, become by the vivacity of their intelligence 
and the violence of their merciless resentment more 
dangerous than so many armed giants." 

The General's voice rose, but his big hand stroked 
his white beard twice with an effect of venerable calm- 



80 A SET OF SIX 

ness. "Si, senores! Women are ready to rise to the 
heights of devotion unattainable by us men, or to sink 
into the depths of abasement which amazes our mas- 
cuHne prejudices. I am speaking now of exceptional 
women, you understand. . . ." 

Here one of the guests observed that he had never 
met a woman yet who was not capable of turning out 
quite exceptional under circumstances that would en- 
gage her feelings strongly. "That sort of superiority 
in recklessness they have over us," he concluded, 
"makes of them the more interesting half of man- 
kind." 

The General, who bore the interruption with gravity, 
nodded courteous assent. "Si. Si. Under circum- 
stances. . . . Precisely. They can do an infinite 
deal of mischief sometimes in quite unexpected ways. 
For who could have imagined that a young girl, daughter 
of a ruined Royalist whose life itself was held only by 
the contempt of his enemies, would have had the power 
to bring death and devastation upon two flourish- 
ing provinces and cause serious anxiety to the leaders 
of the revolution in the very hour of its success!" 
He paused to let the wonder of it penetrate our 
minds. 

"Death and devastation," somebody murmured in 
surprise: "how shocking!" 

The old General gave a glance in the direction of 
the murmur and went on: "Yes. That is, war — 



GASPAR RUIZ SI 

calamity. But the means by which she obtained the 
power to work this havoc on our southern frontier seem 
to me, who have seen her and spoken to her, still more 
shocking. That particular thing left on my mind a 
dreadful amazement which the further experience of 
life, of more than fifty years, has done nothing to di- 
minish." He looked round as if to make sure of our atten- 
tion, and, in a changed voice: "I am, as you know, a 
republican, son of a Liberator," he declared. "My in- 
comparable mother, God rest her soul, was a French- 
woman, the daughter of an ardent republican. As a 
boy I fought for liberty; I've always believed in the 
equality of men; and as to their brotherhood, that, to 
my mind, is even more certain. Look at the fierce 
animosity they display in their differences. And what 
in the world do you know that is more bitterly fierce 
than brothers' quarrels.'*" 

All absence of cynicism checked an inclination to 
smile at this view of human brotherhood. On the 
contrary there was in the tone the melancholy natural 
to a man profoundly humane at heart who from duty, 
from conviction, and from necessity, had played his 
part in scenes of ruthless violence. 

The General had seen much of fratricidal strife. 
"Certainly. There is no doubt of their brotherhood,'* 
he insisted. "All men are brothers, and as such know 
almost too much of each other. But" — and here in 
the old patriarchal head, white as silver, the black eyes 



32 A SET OF SIX 

humorously twinkled — "if we are all brothers, all the 
women are not our sisters." 

One of the younger guests was heard murmuring 
his satisfaction at the fact. But the General continued, 
with deliberate earnestness: "They are so different! 
The tale of a king who took a beggar-maid for a partner 
of his throne may be pretty enough as we men look 
upon ourselves and upon love. But that a young girl, 
famous for her haughty beauty and, only a short 
time before, the admired of all at the balls in the 
Viceroy's palace, should take by the hand a guasso, a 
common peasant, is intolerable to our sentiment of 
women and their love. It is madness. Nevertheless, it 
happened. But it must be said that in her case it was 
the madness of hate — not of love." 

After presenting this excuse in a spirit of chivalrous 
justice, the General remained silent for a time. "I 
rode past the house every day almost," he began again, 
"and this was what was going on within. But how it 
was going on no mind of man can conceive. Her des- 
peration must have been extreme, and Gaspar Ruiz 
was a docile fellow. He had been an obedient soldier. 
His strength was like an enormous stone lying on the 
ground, ready to be hurled this way or that by the hand 
that picks it up. 

"It is clear that he would tell his story to the people 
who gave him the shelter he needed. And he needed 
assistance badly. His wound was not dangerous, but 



CASPAR RUIZ 33 

his life was forfeited. The old Royahst being wrapped 
up in his laughing madness, the two women arranged 
a hiding-place for the wounded man in one of the huts 
amongst the fruit trees at the back of the house. That 
hovel, an abundance of clear water while the fever 
was on him, and some words of pity were all they could 
give. I suppose he had a share of what food there was. 
And it would be but little: a handful of roasted corn, 
perhaps a dish of beans, or a piece of bread with a few 
figs. To such misery were those proud and once 
wealthy people reduced." 

VII 

General Santierra was right in his surmise. Such 
was the exact nature of the assistance which Gaspar 
Ruiz, peasant son of peasants, received from the Roy- 
alist family whose daughter had opened the door of 
their miserable refuge to his extreme distress. Her 
sombre resolution ruled the madness of her father and 
the trembling bewilderment of her mother. 

She had asked the strange man on the doorstep: 
"Who wounded you.'^" 

"The soldiers, senora," Gaspar Ruiz had answered, 
in a faint voice. 

"Patriots?" 

"Si." 

"What for?" 

"Deserter," he gasped, leaning against the wall 



S4 A SET OF SIX 

under the scrutiny of her black eyes. "I was left for 
dead over there." 

She led him through the house out to a small hut of 
clay and reeds, lost in the long grass of the overgrown 
orchard. He sank on a heap of maize straw in a corner, 
and sighed profoundly. 

"No one will look for you here," she said, looking 
down at him. "Nobody comes near us. We, too, have 
been left for dead — here." 

He stirred uneasily on his heap of dirty straw, and 
the pain in his neck made him groan deliriously. 

"I shall show Estaban some day that I am alive 
yet," he mumbled. 

He accepted her assistance in silence, and the many 
days of pain went by. Her appearances in the hut 
brought him reUef and became connected with the 
feverish dreams of angels which visited his couch; for 
Caspar Ruiz was instructed in the mysteries of his 
religion, and had even been taught to read and write a 
httle by the priest of his village. He waited for her 
with impatience, and saw her pass out of the dark hut 
and disappear in the brilliant sunshine with poignant 
regret. He discovered that, while he lay there feel- 
ing so very weak, he could, by closing his eyes, evoke 
her face with considerable distinctness. And this 
discovered faculty charmed the long, solitary hours 
of his convalescence. Later on, when he began to 
regain his strength, he would creep at dusk from 



CASPAR RUIZ 35 

his hut to the house and sit on the step of the garden 
door. 

In one of the rooms the mad father paced to and 
fro, muttering to himself with short abrupt laughs. In 
the passage, sitting on a stool, the mother sighed and 
moaned. The daughter, in rough threadbare clothing, 
and her white haggard face half hidden by a coarse 
manta, stood leaning against the lintel of the door. 
Gaspar Ruiz, with his elbows propped on his knees and 
his head resting in his hands, talked to the two women 
in an undertone. 

The common misery of destitution would have made 
a bitter mockery of a marked insistence on social differ- 
ences. Gaspar Ruiz understood this in his simpHcity. 
From his captivity amongst the Royalists he could give 
them news of people they knew. He described their 
appearance; and when he related the story of the battle 
in which he was recaptured the two women lamented 
the blow to their cause and the ruin of their secret 
hopes. 

He had no feeling either way. But he felt a great 
devotion for that young girl. In his desire to appear 
worthy of her condescension, he boasted a little of his 
bodily strength. He had notliing else to boast of. 
Because of that quality his comrades treated him with as 
great a deference, he explained, as though he had been 
a sergeant, both in camp and in battle. 

"I could always get as many as I wanted to follow 



36 A SET OF SIX 

me anywhere, senorita. I ought to have been made an 
officer, because I can read and write." 

Behind him the silent old lady fetched a moaning 
sigh from time to time; the distracted father muttered 
to himself, pacing the sala; and Gaspar Ruiz would 
raise his eyes now and then to look at the daughter of 
these people. 

He would look at her with curiosity because she 
was alive, and also with that feeling of familiarity and 
awe with which he had contemplated in churches the 
inanimate and powerful statues of the saints, whose 
protection is invoked in dangers and difficulties. His 
difficulty was very great. 

He could not remain hiding in an orchard for ever 
and ever. He knew also very well that before he had 
gone half a day's journey in any direction, he would be 
picked up by one of the cavalry patrols scouring the 
country, and brought into one or another of the camps 
where the patriot army destined for the liberation of 
Peru was collected. There he would in the end be 
recognized as Gaspar Ruiz — the deserter to the Royalists 
— and no doubt shot very effectually this time. There 
did not seem any place in the world for the innocent 
Gaspar Ruiz anywhere. And at this thought his sim- 
ple soul surrendered itself to gloom and resentment as 
black as night. 

They had made him a soldier forcibly. He did not 
mind being a soldier. And he had been a good soldier 



CASPAR RUIZ 37 

as he had been a good son, because of his docihty and 
his strength. But now there was no use for either. 
They had taken him from his parents, and he could no 
longer be a soldier — not a good soldier at any rate. 
Nobody would listen to his explanations. What in- 
justice it was! What injustice! 

And in a mournful murmur he would go over the 
story of his capture and recapture for the twentieth 
time. Then, raising his eyes to the silent girl in the 
doorway, "Si, senorita," he would say with a deep 
sigh, "injustice has made this poor breath in my body 
quite worthless to me and to anybody else. And I do 
not care who robs me of it." 

One evening, as he exhaled thus the plaint of his 
wounded soul, she condescended to say that, if she were 
a man, she would consider no life worthless which held 
the possibility of revenge. 

She seemed to be speaking to herself. Her voice 
was low. He drank in the gentle, as if dreamy sound, 
with a consciousness of peculiar delight, of something 
warming his breast like a draught of generous wine. 

"True, senorita," he said, raising his face up to hers 
slowly: "there is Estaban, who must be shown that I 
am not dead after all." 

The mutterings of the mad father had ceased long 
before; the sighing mother had withdrawn somewhere 
into one of the empty rooms. All was still within 
as well as without, in the moonlight bright as day on the 



38 A SET OF SIX 

wild orchard full of inky shadows. Caspar Ruiz saw the 
dark eyes of Doiia Erminia look down at him. 

"Ah! The sergeant," she muttered disdainfully. 

"Why! He has wounded me with his sword," he 
protested, bewildered by the contempt that seemed to 
shine hvid on her pale face. 

She crushed him with her glance. The power of her 
will to be understood was so strong that it kindled in 
him the intelligence of unexpressed things. 

"What else did you expect me to do?" he cried, as 
if suddenly driven to despair. "Have I the power to do 
more? Am I a general with an army at my back? — 
miserable sinner that I am to be despised by you at 
bst." 

VII 

"Senores," related the General to his guests, "though 
my thoughts were of love then, and therefore enchant- 
ing, the sight of that house always affected me dis- 
agreeably, especially in the moonlight, when its close 
shutters and its air of lonely neglect appeared sinister. 
Still I went on using the bridle-path by the ravine, 
because it was a short cut. The mad Royalist howled 
and laughed at me every evening to his complete sat- 
isfaction; but after a time, as if wearied with my in- 
difference, he ceased to appear in the porch. How 
they persuaded him to leave off I do not know. How- 
ever, with Caspar Ruiz in the house there would have 



CASPAR RUIZ S9 

been no difficulty in restraining him by force. It 
was now part of their pohcy in there to avoid anything 
which could provoke me. At least, so I suppose. 

"Notwithstanding my infatuation with the brightest 
pair of eyes in Chile, I noticed the absence of the old 
man after a week or so. A few more days passed. I 
began to think that perhaps these Royalists had gone 
away somewhere else. But one evening, as I was hast- 
ening toward the city, I saw again somebody in the 
porch. It was not the madman; it was the girl. She 
stood holding on to one of the wooden columns, tall and 
white-faced, her big eyes sunk deep with privation and 
sorrow. I looked hard at her, and she met my stare 
with a strange, inquisitive look. Then, as I turned my 
head after riding past, she seemed to gather courage 
for the act, and absolutely beckoned me back. 

"I obeyed, senores, almost without thinking, so great 
was my astonishment. It was greater still when I 
heard what she had to say. She began by thanking me 
for my forbearance of her father's infirmity, so that I 
felt ashamed of myself. I had meant to show disdain, 
not forbearance! Every word must have burnt her 
lips, but she never departed from a gentle and melan- 
choly dignity which filled me with respect against my 
will. Senores, we are no match for women. But I 
could hardly believe my ears when she began her tale. 
Providence, she concluded, seemed to have preserved 
the life of that wronged soldier, who now trusted to my 



40 A SET OF SIX 

honour as a caballero and to my compassion for his 
sufferings, 

"'Wronged man,' I observed coldly. 'Well, I think 
so, too: and you have been harbouring an enemy of 
your cause.' 

"'He was a poor Christian crying for help at our 
door in the name of God, senor,' she answered simply. 

"I began to admire her. 'Where is he now?' I 
asked stiffly. 

"But she would not answer that question. With 
extreme cunning, and an almost fiendish dehcacy, she 
managed to remind me of my failure in saving the lives 
of the prisoners in the guard-room, without wounding 
my pride. She knew, of course, the whole story. 
Caspar Ruiz, she said, entreated me to procure for him 
a safe-conduct from Ceneral San Martin himself. He 
had an important communication to make to the Com- 
mander-in-chief. 

" Por Dios, senores, she made me swallow all that, 
pretending to be only the mouthpiece of that poor man. 
Overcome by injustice, he expected to find, she said, as 
much generosity in me as had been shown to him by 
the Royalist family which had given him a refuge. 

"Ha! It was well and nobly said to a youngster lil^e 
me. I thought her great. Alas ! she was only implacable. 

"In the end I rode away very enthusiastic about the 
business, without demanding even to see Caspar Ruiz, 
who I was confident was in the house. 



CASPAR RUIZ 41 

"But on calm reflection I began to see some difficul- 
ties which I had not confidence enough in myself to 
encounter. It was not easy to approach a Commander- 
in-chief with such a story. I feared failure. At last I 
thought it better to lay the matter before my general- 
of-division, Robles, a friend of my family, who had 
appointed me his aide-de-camp lately, 

"He took it out of my hands at once without any 
ceremony. 

*"In the house! of course he is in the house,' he said 
contemptuously. 'You ought to have gone sword in 
hand inside and demanded his surrender, instead of 
chatting with a Royalist girl in the porch. Those 
people should have been hunted out of that long ago. 
Who knows how many spies they have harboured right 
in the very midst of our camps? A safe-conduct from 
the Commander-in-chief! The audacity of the fellow! 
Ha! ha! Now we shall catch him to-night, and then 
we shall find out, without any safe-conduct, what he 
has got to say that is so very important. Ha! ha! ha!" 

"General Robles, peace to his soul, was a short, 
thick man, with round, staring eyes, fierce and jovial. 
Seeing my distress, he added : 

"'Come, come, Chico. I promise you his life if he 
does not resist. And that is not likely. We are not 
going to break up a good soldier if it can be helped. I 
tell you what! I am curious to see your strong man. 
Nothing but a general will do for the picaro — well, he 



42 A SET OF SIX 

shall have a general to talk to. Ha! ha! I shall go 
myself to the catching, and you are coming with me, of 
course.' 

"And it was done that same night. Early in the 
evening the house and the orchard were surrounded 
quietly. Later on the General and I left a ball we were 
attending in town and rode out at an easy gallop. At 
some httle distance from the house we pulled up. A 
mounted orderly held our horses. A low whistle 
warned the men watching all along the ravine, and we 
walked up to the porch softly. The barricaded house 
in the moonhght seemed empty. 

"The General knocked at the door. After a time a 
woman's voice within asked who was there. My chief 
nudged me hard. I gasped: 

"*It is I, Lieutenant Santierra,' I stammered out, as 
if choked. 'Open the door.' 

"It came open slowly. The girl, holding a thin 
taper in her hand, seeing another man with me, began 
to back away before us slowly, shading the light with 
her hand. Her impassive white face looked ghostly. I 
followed behind General Robles. Her eyes were fixed 
on mine. I made a gesture of helplessness behind my 
chief's back, trying at the same time to give a reassuring 
expression to my face. Neither of us three uttered a 
sound. 

"We found ourselves in a room with bare floor and 
walls. There was a rough table and a couple of stools 



CASPAR RUIZ 43 

in it, nothing else whatever. An old woman with her 
gray hair hanging loose wrung her hands when we 
appeared, A peal of loud laughter resounded through 
the empty house, very amazing and weird. At this the 
old woman tried to get past us. 

"'Nobody to leave the room,' said General Robles 
to me. 

*'I swung the door to, heard the latch cHck, and the 
laughter became faint in our ears. 

"Before another word could be spoken in that room 
I was amazed by hearing the sound of distant thunder. 

"I had carried in with me into the house a vivid im- 
pression of a beautiful clear moonlight night, without a 
speck of cloud in the sky. I could not believe my ears. 
Sent early abroad for my education, I was not familiar 
with the most dreaded natural phenomenon of my na- 
tive land. I saw, with inexpressible astonishment, a 
look of terror in my chief's eyes. Suddenly I felt 
giddy! The General staggered against me heavily; the 
girl seemed to reel in the middle of the room, the taper 
fell out of her hand and the light went out; a shrill cry 
of 'Misericordia!' from the old woman pierced my ears. 
In the pitchy darkness I heard the plaster off the walls 
falling on the floor. It is a mercy there was no ceiling. 
Holding on to the latch of the door, I heard the grinding 
of the roof-tiles cease above my head. The shock was 
over. 

"*Out of the house! The door! Fly, Santierra, 



44 A SET OF SIX 

fly!' howled the Generah You know, senores, in our 
country the bravest are not ashamed of the fear an 
earthquake strikes into all the senses of man. One 
never gets used to it. Repeated experience only aug- 
ments the mastery of that nameless terror. 

"It was my first earthquake, and I was the calmest of 
them all. I understood that the crash outside was 
caused by the porch, with its wooden pillars and tiled 
roof projection, falling down. The next shock would 
destroy the house, n^aybe. That rumble as of thunder 
was approaching again. The General was rushing 
round the room, to find the door, perhaps. He made a 
noise as though he were trying to climb the walls, and 
I heard him distinctly invoke the names of several 
saints. 'Out, out, Santierra!' he yelled. 

"The girl's voice was the only one I did not hear. 

"'General,' I cried, 'I cannot move the door. We 
must be locked in.' 

"I did not recognize his voice in the shout of male- 
diction and despair he let out. Senores, I know many 
men in my country, especially in the provinces most 
subject to earthquakes, who will neither eat, sleep, 
pray, nor even sit down to cards with closed doors. 
The danger is not in the loss of time, but in this — that 
the movement of the walls may prevent a door being 
opened at all. This was what had happened to us. 
We were trapped, and we had no help to expect from 
anybody. There is no man in my country who will go 



CASPAR RUIZ 45 

into a house when the earth trembles. There never 
was — except one: Caspar Ruiz. 

"He had come out of whatever hole he had been 
hiding in outside, and had clambered over the timbers 
of the destroyed porch. Above the awful subterranean 
groan of coming destruction I heard a mighty voice 
shouting the word 'Erminia!' with the lungs of a giant. 
An earthquake is a great leveller of distinctions. I 
collected all my resolution against the terror of the 
scene. 'She is here,' I shouted back. A roar as of a 
fiu-ious wild beast answered me — while my head swam, 
my heart sank, and the sweat of anguish streamed like 
rain off my brow. 

*'He had the strength to pick up one of the heavy 
posts of the porch. Holding it under his armpit like a 
lance, but with both hands, he charged madly the rock- 
ing house with the force of a battering-ram, bursting 
open the door and rushing in, headlong, over our pros- 
trate bodies. I and the Ccneral, picking ourselves up, 
bolted out together, without looking round once till 
we got across the road. Then, clinging to each other, 
we beheld the house change suddenly into a heap of 
formless rubbish behind the back of a man, who stag- 
gered toward us bearing the form of a woman clasped 
in his arms. Her long black hair hung nearly to his 
feet. He laid her dowm reverently on the heaving 
earth, and the moonlight shone on her closed eyes. 

"Senores, we mounted with difficulty. Our horses 



46 A SET OF SIX 

getting up plunged madly, held by the soldiers who had 
come running from all sides. Nobody thought of 
catching Caspar Ruiz then. The eyes of men and 
animals shone with wild fear. My General approached 
Caspar Ruiz, who stood motionless as a statue above 
the girl. He let himself be shaken by the shoulder 
without detaching his eyes from her face. 

'"Que guapel' shouted the General in his ear. 'You 
are the bravest man living. You have saved my life. I 
am General Robles. Come to my quarters to-morrow, 
if God gives us the grace to see another day.' 

"He never stirred — as if deaf, without feeling, in- 
sensible. 

"We rode away for the town, full of our relations, of 
our friends, of whose fate we hardly dared to think. 
The soldiers ran by the side of our horses. Everything 
was forgotten in the immensity of the catastrophe over- 
taking a whole country." 



Caspar Ruiz saw the girl open her eyes. The raising 
of her eyelids seemed to recall him from a trance. They 
were alone; the cries of terror and distress from home- 
less people filled the plains of the coast remote and 
immense, coming like a whisper into their loneliness. 

She rose swiftly to her feet, darting fearful glances 
on all sides. "What is it.? " she cried out low, and peer- 
ing into his face. "Where am I?" 



CASPAR RUIZ 47 

He bowed his liead sadly, without a word. 

"... Who are you?" 

He knelt down slowly before her, and touched the 
hem of her coarse black baize skirt. "Your slave," he 
said. 

She caught sight then of the heap of rubbish that 
had been the house, all misty in the cloud of dust. 
"Ah!" she cried, pressing her hand to her forehead. 

"I carried you out from there," he whispered at her 
feet. 

"And they?" she asked in a great sob. 

He rose, and taldng her by the arms, led her gently 
toward the shapeless ruin half overwhelmed by a land- 
slide. "Come and listen," he said. 

The serene moon saw them clambering over that 
heap of stones, joists, and tiles, which was a grave. 
They pressed their ears to the interstices, hstening for 
the sound of a groan, for a sigh of pain. 

At last he said: "They died swiftly. You are alone." 

She sat down on a piece of broken timber and put 
one arm across her face. He waited — then approach- 
ing his lips to her ear: "Let us go," he whispered. 

"Never — never from here," she cried out, flinging 
her arms above her head. 

He stooped over her, and her raised arms fell upon 
his shoulders. He lifted her up, steadied himself, and 
began to walk, looking straight before him. 

"What are you doing?" she asked feebly. 



48 A SET OF SIX 

"I am escaping from my enemies," he said, never 
once glancing at his Hght burden. 

"With me?" she sighed helplessly. 

"Never without you," he said. "You are my 
strength." 

He pressed her close to him. His face was grave 
and his footsteps steady. The conflagrations bursting 
out in the ruins of destroyed villages dotted the plain 
with red fires; and the sounds of distant lamentations, 
the cries of Misericordia ! Misericordia ! made a desolate 
murmur in his ears. He walked on, solemn and col- 
lected, as if carrying something holy, fragile, and pre- 
cious. 

The earth rocked at times under his feet. 

IX 

With movements of mechanical care and an air of 
abstraction old General Santierra lighted a long and 
thick cigar. 

"It was a good many hours before we could send a 
party back to the ravine," he said to his guests. "We 
had found one third of the town laid low, the rest shaken 
up; and the inhabitants, rich and poor, reduced to the 
same state of distraction by the universal disaster. 
The affected cheerfulness of some contrasted with the 
despair of others. In the general confusion a number 
of reckless thieves, without fear of God or man, became 
a danger to those who from the downfall of their homes 



CASPAR RUIZ 49 

had managed to save some valuables. Crying 'IMiseri- 
cordia' louder than any at every tremor, and beating 
their breast with one hand, these scoundrels robbed the 
poor victims with the other, not even stopping short of 
murder. 

" Ceneral Robles' division was occupied entirely in 
guarding the destroyed quarters of the town from the 
depredations of these inhuman monsters. Taken up 
with my duties of orderly officer, it was only in the 
morning that I could assure myself of the safety of my 
own family. My mother and my sisters had escaped 
with their lives from that ball-room, where I had left 
them early in the evening. I remember those two 
beautiful young women — Cod rest their souls — as if I 
saw them this moment, in the garden of our destroyed 
house, pale but active, assisting some of our poor neigh- 
bours, in their soiled ball-dresses and with the dust of 
fallen walls on their hair. As to my mother, she had a 
stoical soul in her frail body. Half-covered by a costly 
shawl, she was lying on a rustic seat by the side of an 
ornamental basin whose fountain had ceased to play for- 
ever on that night. 

"I had hardly had time to embrace them all with trans- 
ports of joy when my chief, coming along, dispatched 
me to the ravine with a few soldiers, to bring in my 
strong man, as he called him, and that pale girl. 

"But there was no one for us to bring in. A land- 
slide had covered the ruins of the house; and it was 



50 A SET OF SIX 

like a large mound of earth with only the ends of some 
timbers visible here and there — nothing more. 

"Thus were the tribulations of the old Royalist 
couple ended. An enormous and uneonsecrated grave 
had swallowed them up alive, in their unhappy obsti- 
nacy against the will of a people to be free. And their 
daughter was gone. 

"That Caspar Ruiz had carried her off I understood 
very well. But as the case was not foreseen, I had no 
instructions to pursue them. And certainly I had no 
desire to do so. I had grown mistrustful of my inter- 
ference. It had never been successful, and had not 
even appeared creditable. He was gone. Well, let 
him go. And he had carried off the Royalist girl! 
Nothing better. Vaya con Dios. This was not the 
time to bother about a deserter who, justly or unjustly, 
ought to have been dead, and a girl for whom it would 
have been better to have never been born. 

"So I marched my men back to the town. 

"After a few days, order having been reestablished, 
all the principal families, including my own, left for 
Santiago. We had a fine house there. At the same 
time the division of Robles was moved to new canton- 
ments near the capital. Thi:; change suited very well 
the state of my domestic and amorous feelings. 

"One night, rather late, I was called to my chief. I 
found General Robles in his quarters, at ease, with his 
uniform off, drinking neat brandy out of a tumbler — 



CASPAR RUIZ 51 

as a precaution, he used to say, against the sleepless- 
ness induced by the bites of mosquitoes. He was a 
good soldier, and he taught me the art and practice of 
war. No doubt God has been merciful to his soul; for 
his motives were never other than patriotic, if his charac- 
ter was irascible. As to the use of mosquito nets, he con- 
sidered it effeminate, shameful — unworthy of a soldier. 

*'I noticed at the first glance that his face, already 
very red, wore an expression of high good-humour. 

*"Aha! senor teniente,' he cried loudly, as I saluted 
at the door. 'Behold! Your strong man has turned 
up again.' 

"He extended to me a folded letter, which I saw was 
superscribed: 'To the Commander-in-chief of the Re- 
pubhcan Armies.' 

"'This,' Ceneral Robles went on in his loud voice, 
'was thrust by a boy into the hand of a sentry at the 
Quartel Ceneral, while the fellow stood there thinking 
of his girl, no doubt — for before he could gather his 
wits together the boy had disappeared amongst the 
market people, and he protests he could not recognize 
him to save his life.' 

"My chief told me further that the soldier had given 
the letter to the sergeant of the guard, and that ulti- 
mately it had reached the hands of our generalissimo. 
His Excellency had deigned to take cognizance of it 
with his own eyes. After that he had referred the 
matter in confidence to General Robles. 



52 A SET OF SIX 

"The letter, seiiorcs, I cannot now recollect textually. 
I saw the signature of Caspar Ruiz. He was an auda- 
cious fellow. He had snatched a soul for himself out of 
a cataclysm, remember. And now it was that soul 
which had dictated the terms of his letter. Its tone 
was very independent. I remember it struck me at the 
time as noble — dignified. It was, no doubt, her letter. 
Now I shudder at the depth of its duplicity. Gaspar 
Ruiz was made to complain of the injustice of which he 
had been a victim. He invoked his previous record of 
fidelity and courage. Having been saved from death 
by the miraculous interposition of Providence, he 
could think of nothing but of retrieving his character. 
This, he wrote, he could not hope to do in the ranks as 
a discredited soldier still under suspicion. He had 
the means to give a striking proof of his fidehty. And 
he ended by proposing to the General-in-chief a meet- 
ing at midnight in the middle of the Plaza before the 
Moneta. The signal would be to strike fire with flint 
and steel three times, which was not too conspicuous 
and yet distinctive enough for recognition. 

"San Martin, the great Liberator, loved men of 
audacity and courage. Besides, he was just and com- 
passionate. I told him as much of the man's story as I 
knew, and was ordered to accompany him on the ap- 
pointed night. The signals were duly exchanged. It 
was midnight, and the whole town was dark and silent. 
Their two cloaked figures came together in the centre of 



CASPAR RUIZ 53 

the vast Plaza, and, keeping discreetly at a distance, I 
listened for an hour or more to the murmur of their 
voices. Then the General motioned me to approach; 
and as I did so I heard San jNIartin, who was courteous 
to gentle and simple alike, offer Gaspar Ruiz the hospi- 
tality of the headquarters for the night. But the soldier 
refused, saying that he would be not worthy of that 
honour till he had done something. 

"'You cannot have a common deserter for your 
guest, Excellency,' he protested with a low laugh, and 
stepping backward merged slowly into the night. 

"The Commander-in-chief observed to me, as we 
turned away: 'He had somebody with him, our friend 
Ruiz. I saw two figures for a moment. It was an un- 
obtrusive companion.' 

"I, too, had observed another figure join the vanishing 
form of Gaspar Ruiz. It had the appearance of a short 
fellow in a poncho and a big hat. And I wondered 
stupidly who it could be he had dared take into his con- 
fidence. I might have guessed it could be no one but 
that fatal girl — alas! 

"Where he kept her concealed I do not know. He 
had — it was known afterward — an uncle, his mother's 
brother, a small shopkeeper in Santiago. Perhaps it 
was there that she found a roof and food. "VMiatever 
she found, it was poor enough to exasperate her pride 
and keep up her anger and hate. It is certain she did 
not accompany him on the feat he undertook to ac- 



54 A SET OF SIX 

complish first of all. It was nothing less than the 
destruction of a store of war material collected secretly 
by the Spanish authorities in the south, in a town called 
Linares. Caspar Ruiz was entrusted with a small 
party only, but they proved themselves worthy of 
San Martin's confidence. The season was not pro- 
pitious. They had to swim swollen rivers. They 
seemed, however, to have galloped night and day, out- 
riding the news of their foray, and holding straight foi 
the town, a hundred miles into the enemy's country, 
till at break of day they rode into it sword in hand^ 
surprising the little garrison. It fled without making a 
stand, leaving most of its officers in Caspar Ruiz' 
hands. 

"A great explosion of gunpowder ended the con- 
flagration of the magazines the raiders had set on fire 
without loss of time. In less than six hours they were 
riding away at the same mad speed, without the loss of 
a single man. Cood as they were, such an exploit is 
not performed without a still better leadership. 

"I was dining at the headquarters when Caspar 
Ruiz himself brought the news of his success. And it 
was a great blow to the Royalist troops. For a proof he 
displayed to us the garrison's flag. He took it from 
under his poncho and flung it on the table. The man 
was transfigured; there was something exulting and 
menacing in the expression of his face. He stood 
behind Ceneral San Martin's chair and looked proudly 



CASPAR RUIZ 55 

at us all. He had a round blue cap edged with silver 
braid on his head, and we all could see a large white 
scar on the nape of his sunburnt neck. 

"Somebody asked him what he had done with the 
captured Spanish officers. 

"He shrugged his shoulders scornfully. 'What a 
question to ask! In a partisan war you do not burden 
yourself with prisoners. I let them go — and here are 
their sword-knots.' 

"He flung a bunch of them on the table upon the 
flag. Then General Robles, whom I was attending 
there, spoke up in his loud, thick voice: 'You did! 
Then, my brave friend, you do not know yet how a war 
like ours ought to be conducted. You should have 
done — this.' And he passed the edge of his hand 
across his own throat. 

"Alas, senores! It was only too true that on both 
sides this contest, in its nature so heroic, was stained by 
ferocity. The murmurs that arose at General Robles' 
words were by no means unanimous in tone. But the 
generous and brave San Martin praised the humane 
action, and pointed out to Ruiz a place on his right 
hand. Then rising with a full glass, he proposed a 
toast: 'Caballeros and comrades-in-arms, let us drink 
the health of Captain Caspar Ruiz.' And when we had 
emptied our glasses: 'I intend,' the Commander-in- 
chief continued, 'to entrust him with the guardianship 
^f our southern frontier, while we go afar to liberate 



56 A SET OF SIX 

our brethren in Peru. He whom the enemy could not 
stop from striking a blow at his very heart will know 
how to protect the peaceful populations we leave be- 
hind us to pursue our sacred task.' And he embraced 
the silent Caspar Ruiz by his side. 

"Later on, when we all rose from table, I approached 
the latest officer of the army with my congratulations. 
'And, Captain Ruiz,' I added, 'perhaps you do not 
mind telling a man, who has always believed in the 
uprightness of your character, what became of Dona 
Erminia on that night?' 

"At this friendly question his aspect changed. He 
looked at me from under his eyebrows with the heavy, 
dull glance of a guasso — of a peasant. ' Senor temente,* 
he said thickly, and as if very much cast down, ' do not 
ask me about the seiiorita, for I prefer not to think 
about her at all when I am amongst you.' 

"He looked, with a frown, all about the room, full of 
smoking and talking officers. Of course I did not 
insist. 

"These, sefiores, were the last words I was to hear him 
utter for a long, long time. The very next day we em- 
barked for our arduous expedition to Peru, and we only 
heard of Caspar Ruiz' doings in the midst of battles of 
our own. He had been appointed military guardian of 
our southern province. He raised a partida. But his 
leniency to the conquered foe displeased the Civil 
Governor, who was a formal, uneasy man, full of 



GASP.\R RUIZ 57 

suspicions. He forwarded reports against Caspar Ruiz 
to the Supreme Government; one of them being that 
he had married pubHcly, with great pomp, a woman of 
RoyaHst tendencies. Quarrels were sure to arise be- 
tween these two men of very different character. At 
last the Civil Governor began to complain of his in- 
activity, and to hint at treachery, which, he wrote, 
would be not surprising in a man of such antecedents. 
Gaspar Ruiz heard of it. His rage flamed up, and the 
woman ever by his side knew how to feed it with per- 
fidious words. I do not know whether really the Su- 
preme Government ever did — as he complained after- 
ward — send orders for his arrest. It seems certain 
that the Civil Governor began to tamper with his 
officers, and that Gaspar Ruiz discovered the fact. 

"One evening, when the Governor was giving a 
iertullia, Gaspar Ruiz, followed by six men he could 
trust, appeared riding through the town to the door of 
the Government House, and entered the sala armed, his 
hat on his head. As the Governor, displeased, ad- 
vanced to meet him, he seized the wretched man round 
the body, carried him off from the midst of the appalled 
guests as though he were a child, and flung him down 
the outer steps into the street. An angry hug from 
Gaspar Ruiz was enough to crush the life out of a giant; 
but in addition Gaspar Ruiz' horsemen fired their 
pistols at the body of the Governor as it lay motionless 
at the bottom of the stairs. 



68 A SET OF SIX 



X 



"After this — as he called it — act of justice, Ruiz 
crossed the Rio Blanco, followed by the greater part 
of his band, and entrenched himself upon a hill. A 
company of regular troops sent out foolishly against 
him was surrounded, and destroyed almost to a man. 
Other expeditions, though better organized, were 
equally unsuccessful. 

"It was during these sanguinary skirmishes that 
his wife first began to appear on horseback at his 
right hand. Rendered proud and self-confident by his 
successes, Ruiz no longer charged at the head of his 
partida, but presumptuously, like a general directing 
the movements of an army, he remained in the rear, 
well mounted and motionless on an eminence, sending 
out his orders. She was seen repeatedly at his side, and 
for a long time was mistaken for a man. There was 
much talk then of a mysterious white-faced chief, to 
whom the defeats of our troops were ascribed. She 
rode like an Indian woman, astride, wearing a broad- 
rimmed man's hat and a dark poncho. Afterward, in 
the day of their greatest prosperity, this poncho was 
embroidered in gold, and she wore then, also, the sword 
of poor Don Antonio de Leyva. This veteran Chilian 
officer, having the misfortune to be surrounded with his 
small force, and running short of ammunition, found 
his death at the hands of the Arauco Indians, the allies 



CASPAR RUIZ 59 

and auxiliaries of Caspar Ruiz. This was the fatal 
affair long remembered afterward as the 'Massacre 
of the Island.' The sword of the unhappy officer 
was presented to her by Peneleo, the Araucanian chief; 
for these Indians, struck by her aspect, the deathly 
pallor of her face, which no exposure to the weather 
seemed to affect, and her calm indifference under fire, 
looked upon her as a supernatural being, or at least as a 
witch. By this superstition the prestige and authority 
of Caspar Ruiz amongst these ignorant people were 
greatly augmented. She must have savoured her 
vengeance to the full on that day when she buckled on 
the sword of Don Antonio de Leyva. It never left 
her side, unless she put on her woman's clothes — not 
that she would or could ever use it, but she loved to feel 
it beating upon her thigh as a perpetual reminder and 
symbol of the dishonour to the arms of the Republic. 
She was insatiable. Moreover, on the path she had led 
Caspar Ruiz upon, there is no stopping. Escaped 
prisoners — and they were not many — used to relate how 
with a few whispered words she could change the ex- 
pression of his face and revive his flagging animosity. 
They told how after every skirmish, after every raid, 
after every successful action, he would ride up to her 
and look into her face. Its haughty calm was never 
relaxed. Her embrace, senorcs, must have been as 
cold as the embrace of a statue. He tried to melt her 
icy heart in a stream of warm blood. Some English 



60 A SET OF SIX 

naval officers who visited him at that time noticed the 
strange character of his infatuation." 

At the movement of surprise and curiosity in his 
audience General Santierra paused for a moment. 

"Yes — English naval officers," he repeated. "Ruiz 
had consented to receive them to arrange for the libera- 
tion of some prisoners of your nationality. In the 
territory upon which he ranged, from seacoast to the 
Cordilleras, there was a bay where the ships of that time, 
after rounding Cape Horn, used to resort for wood and 
water. There, decoying the crew on shore, he cap- 
tured first the whaling brig Hersalia, and afterward 
made himself master by surprise of two more ships, one 
English and one American. 

"It was rumoured at the time that he dreamed of 
setting up a navy of his own. But that, of course, was 
impossible. Still, manning the brig with part of her 
own crew, and putting an officer and a good many men 
of his own on board, he sent her off to the Spanish 
Governor of the island of Chiloe with a report of his 
exploits, and a demand for assistance in the war against 
the rebels. The Governor could not do much for him; 
but he sent in return two light field-pieces, a letter of com- 
pliments, with a colonel's commission in the royal forces, 
and a great Spanish flag. This standard with much 
ceremony was hoisted over his house in the heart of the 
Arauco country. Surely on that day she may have smiled 
on her guasso husband with a less haughty reserve. 



CASPAR RUIZ 61 

"The senior officer of the English squadron on our 
coast made representations to our Government as to 
these captures. But Gaspar Ruiz refused to treat with 
us. Then an English frigate proceeded to the bay, and 
her captain, doctor, and two lieutenants travelled 
inland under a safe-conduct. They were well received, 
and spent three days as guests of the partisan chief. A 
sort of military barbaric state was kept up at the resi- 
dence. It was furnished with the loot of frontier 
towns. When first admitted to the principal sala, 
they saw his wife lying dowTi (she was not in good 
health then), with Gaspar Ruiz sitting at the foot of the 
couch. His hat was lying on the floor, and his hands 
reposed on the hilt of his sword. 

"During that first conversation he never removed 
his big hands from the sword-hilt, except once, to 
arrange the coverings about her, with gentle, careful 
touches. They noticed that whenever she spoke he 
would fix his eyes upon her in a kind of expectant, 
breathless attention, and seemingly forget the exis- 
tence of the world and his own existence, too. In the 
course of the farewell banquet, at which she was present 
reclining on her couch, he burst forth into complaints 
of the treatment he had received. After General 
San Martin's departure he had been beset by spies, 
slandered by ci\'il officials, his services ignored, his 
liberty and even his life threatened by the Chilian 
Government. He got up from the table, thundered 



62 A SET OF SIX 

execrations pacing the room wildly, then sat down on 
the couch at his wife's feet, his breast heaving, his eyes 
fixed on the floor. She reclined on her back, her head 
on the cushions, her eyes nearly closed. 

"'And now I am an honoured Spanish oflScer,' he 
added in a calm voice. 

"The captain of the English frigate then took the 
opportunity to inform him gently that Lima had fallen 
and that by the terms of a convention the Spaniards 
were withdrawing from the whole continent. 

"Caspar Ruiz raised his head, and without hesitation, 
speaking with suppressed vehemence, declared that if 
not a single Spanish soldier were left in the whole of 
South America he would persist in carrying on the 
contest against Chile to the last drop of blood. When 
he finished that mad tirade his wife's long white hand 
was raised, and she just caressed his knee with the tips 
of her fingers for a fraction of a second. 

"For the rest of the oflficers' stay, which did not 
extend for more than half an hour after the banquet, 
that ferocious chieftain of a desperate partida over- 
flowed with amiability and kindness. He had been 
hospitable before, but now it seemed as though he 
could not do enough for the comfort and safety of his 
visitors' journey back to their ship. 

"Nothing, I have been told, could have presented a 
greater contrast to his late violence or the habitual 
taciturn reserve of his manner. Like a man elated 



CASPAR RUIZ 68 

beyond measure by an unexpected happiness, he over- 
flowed with good-will, amiability, and attentions. He 
embraced the officers like brothers, almost with tears in 
his eyes. The released prisoners were presented each 
with a piece of gold. At the last moment, suddenly, he 
declared he could do no less than restore to the masters 
of the merchant vessels all their private property. This 
unexpected generosity caused some delay in the de- 
parture of the party, and their first march was very 
short. 

"Late in the evening Caspar Ruiz rode up with an 
escort, to their campfires, bringing along with him a 
mule loaded with cases of wine. He had come, he 
said, to drink a stirrup cup with his English friends, 
whom he would never see again. He was mellow and 
joyous in his temper. He told stories of his own ex- 
ploits, laughed like a boy, borrowed a guitar from the 
Englishmen's chief muleteer, and sitting cross-legged 
on his superfine poncho spread before the glow of the 
embers, sang a guasso love-song in a tender voice. 
Then his head dropped on his breast, his hands fell 
to the ground; the guitar rolled off fiis knees — and a 
great hush fell over the camp after the love-song of 
the implacable partisan who had made so many of 
our people weep for destroyed homes and for loves cut 
short. 

"Before anybody could make a sound he sprang up 
from the ground and called for his horse. 



64 A SET OF SIX 

***Adios, my friends!' he cried. 'Go with God. I 
love you. And tell them well in Santiago that between 
Gaspar Ruiz, colonel of the Kjng of Spain, and the 
Republican carrion-crows of Chile there is war to the 
last breath — war! war! war!' 

"With a great yell of 'War! war! war!' which his 
escort took up, they rode away, and the sound of hoofs 
and of voices died out in the distance between the 
slopes of the hills. 

"The two young English officers were convinced that 
Ruiz was mad. How do you say that? — tile loose — eh? 
But the doctor, an observant Scotsman with much 
shrewdness and philosophy in his character, told me 
that it was a very curious case of possession. I met him 
many years afterward, but he remembered the experi- 
ence very well. He told me, too, that in his opinion that 
woman did not lead Gaspar Ruiz into the practice of 
sanguinary treachery by direct persuasion, but by the 
subtle way of awakening and keeping alive in his simple 
mind a burning sense of an irreparable wrong. Maybe, 
maybe. But I would say that she poured half of her 
vengeful soul into the strong clay of that man, as you 
may pour intoxication, madness, poison into an empty 
cup. 

"K he wanted war he got it in earnest when our 
victorious army began to return from Peru. Syste- 
matic operations were planned against this blot on the 
honour and prosperity of our hardly won independence. 



CASPAR RUIZ C5 

vjreneral Robles commanded, with his well-known ruth- 
less severity. Savage reprisals were exercised on both 
sides, and no quarter was given in the field. Having 
won my promotion in the Peru campaign, I was a 
captain on the staff. 

"Gaspar Ruiz found himself hard pressed; at the 
same time we heard by means of a fugitive priest 
who had been carried off from his village presbytery, 
and galloped eighty miles into the hills to perform the 
christening ceremony, that a daughter was born to 
them. To celebrate the event, I suppose, Ruiz exe- 
cuted one or two brilliant forays clear away at the 
rear of our forces, and defeated the detachments sent 
out to cut off his retreat. General Robles nearly had 
a stroke of apoplexy from rage. He found another 
cause of insomnia than the bites of mosquitoes; but 
against this one, sefiores, tumblers of raw brandy had 
no more effect than so much water. He took to railing 
and storming at me about my strong man. And from 
our impatience to end this inglorious campaign I am 
afraid that we all young officers became reckless and 
apt to take undue risks on service. 

"Nevertheless, slowly, inch by inch as it were, our 
columns were closing upon Gaspar Ruiz, though he had 
managed to raise all the Araucanian nation of wild 
Indians against us. Then a year or more later our 
Government became aware through its agents and spies 
that he had actually entered into alliance with Car- 



66 A SET OF SIX 

reras, the so-called dictator of the so-called republic of 
Mendoza, on the other side of the mountains. Whether 
Gaspar Ruiz had a deep political intention, or whether 
he wished only to secure a safe retreat for his wife and 
child while he pursued remorselessly against us his war 
of surprises and massacres, I cannot tell. The alhance, 
however, was a fact. Defeated in his attempt to 
check our advance from the sea, he retreated with his 
usual swiftness, and preparing for another hard and 
hazardous tussle, began by sending his wife with the 
little girl across the Pequena range of mountains, on 
the frontier of Mendoza. 

XI 

"Now Carreras, under the guise of politics and liberal- 
ism, was a scoundrel of the deepest dye, and the 
unhappy state of Mendoza was the prey of thieves, 
robbers, traitors, and murderers, who formed his party. 
He was under a noble exterior a man without heart, 
pity, honour, or conscience. He aspired to nothing but 
tyranny, and though he would have made use of Gas- 
par Ruiz for his nefarious designs, yet he soon became 
aware that to propitiate the Chilian Government 
would answer his purpose better. I blush to say that 
he made proposals to our Government to deliver up on 
certain conditions the wife and child of the man who 
had trusted to his honour, and that this offer was ac- 
cepted. 



GASPAR RUIZ 67 

"While on her way to Mendoza over the Pequena 
Pass she was betrayed by her escort of Carreras' men, 
and given up to the oflBcer in command of a Chihan fort 
on the upland at the foot of the main Cordillera range. 
This atrocious transaction might have cost me dear, for 
as a matter of fact I was a prisoner in Caspar Ruiz' 
camp when he received the news. I had been captured 
during a reconnaissance, my escort of a few troopers 
being speared by the Indians of his bodyguard. I was 
saved from the same fate because he recognized my 
features just in time. No doubt my friends thought I 
was dead, and I would not have given much for my life 
at any time. But the strong man treated me very well, 
because, he said, I had always believed in his innocence 
and had tried to serve him when he was a victim of 
injustice. 

"'And now,' was his speech to me, *you shall see 
that I always speak the truth. You are safe.' 

"I did not think I was very safe when I was called 
up to go to him one night. He paced up and down 
like a wild beast, exclaiming, 'Betrayed! Betrayed!' 

"He walked up to me clenching his fists. 'I could 
cut your throat.' 

"'Will that give your wife back to you.^' I said as 
quietly as I could. 

"'And the child!' he yelled out, as if mad. He fell 
into a chair and laughed in a frightful, boisterous 
manner. *0h, no, you are safe.' 



68 A SET OF SIX 

"I assured him that his wife's life was safe, too; but 
I did not say what I was convinced of — that he would 
never see her again. He wanted war to the death, and 
the war could only end with his death. 

"He gave me a strange, inexplicable look, and sat 
muttering blankly, 'In their hands. In their hands.' 

"I kept as still as a mouse before a cat. 

"Suddenly he jumped up. 'What am I doing here?' 
he cried; and opening the door, he yelled out orders 
to saddle and mount. 'What is it?' he stammered, 
coming up to me. 'The Pequena fort; a fort of pali- 
sades! Nothing. I would get her back if she were 
hidden in the very heart of the mountain.' He amazed 
me by adding, with an effort: 'I carried her off in my 
two arms while the earth trembled. And the child at 
least is mine. She at least is mine!' 

"Those were bizarre words; but I had no time for 
wonder. 

"'You shall go with me,' he said violently. 'I may 
want to parley, and any other messenger from Ruiz, the 
outlaw, would have his throat cut.' 

"This was true enough. Between him and the rest 
of incensed mankind there could be no communication, 
according to the customs of honourable warfare. 

"In less than half an hour we were in the saddle, 
flying wildly through the night. He had only an escort 
of twenty men at his quarters, but would not wait for 
more. He sent, however, messengers to Peneleo, the 



CASPAR RUIZ 69 

Indian chief then ranging in the foothills, directing 
him to bring his warriors to the uplands and meet him 
at the lake called the Eye of Water, near whose shores 
the frontier fort of Pequena was built. 

"We crossed the lowlands with that untired rapidity 
of movement which had made Caspar Ruiz' raids so 
famous. We followed the lower valleys up to their 
precipitous heads. The ride was not \vithout its 
dangers. A cornice road on a perpendicular wall of 
basalt wound itself around a buttressing rock, and at 
last we emerged from the gloom of a deep gorge upon 
the upland of Pequena. 

"It was a plain of green wiry grass and thin flowering 
bushes; but high above our heads patches of snow 
hung in the folds and crevices of the great walls of 
rock. The little lake was as round as a staring eye. 
The garrison of the fort were just driving in their small 
herd of cattle when we appeared. Then the great 
wooden gates swung to, and that four-square enclosure 
of broad blackened stakes pointed at the top and barely 
hiding the grass roofs of the huts inside seemed de- 
serted, empty, without a single soul. 

"But when summoned to surrender, by a man who 
at Caspar Ruiz' order rode fearlessly forward, those 
inside answered by a volley which rolled him and his 
horse over. I heard Ruiz by my side grind his teeth. 
'It does not matter,' he said. 'Now you go.' 

"Torn and faded as its rags were, the vestiges of my 



70 A SET OF SIX 

uniform were recognized, and I was allowed to approach 
within speaking distance; and then I had to wait, be- 
cause a voice clamouring through a loophole with joy 
and astonishment would not allow me to place a word. 
It was the voice of Major Pajol, an old friend. He, like 
my other comrades, had thought me killed a long time 
ago. 

"*Put spurs to your horse, man!' he yelled, in the 
greatest excitement; 'we will swing the gate open for 
you.' 

**I let the reins fall out of my hand and shook my 
head. 'I am on my honour,' I cried. 

"*To him!' he shouted, with infinite disgust. 

"'He promises you your life.* 

"'Our life is our own. And do you, Santierra, ad- 
vise us to surrender to that rastrero ? ' 

" ' No ! ' I shouted. ' But he wants his wife and child, 
and he can cut you off from water.' 

"'Then she would be the first to suffer. You may 
tell him that. Look here — this is all nonsense: we 
shall dash out and capture you.* 

"'You shall not catch me alive,' I said firmly. 

"'Imbecile!' 

"'For God's sake,' I continued hastily, 'do not open 
the gate.* And I pointed at the multitude of Peneleo's 
Indians who covered the shores of the lake. 

"I had never seen so many of these savages together. 
Their lances seemed as numerous as stalks of grass. 



CASPAR RUIZ 71 

Their hoarse voices made a vast, inarticulate sound 
like the murmur of the sea. 

"My friend Pajol was swearing to himself. 'Well, 
then — ^go to the devil!' he shouted, exasperated. But 
as I swung round he repented, for I heard him say 
hurriedly, 'Shoot the fool's horse before he gets away.' 

"He had good marksmen. Two shots rang out, 
and in the very act of turning, my horse staggered, fell, 
and lay still as if struck by lightning. I had my feet 
out of the stirrups and rolled clear of him; but I did 
not attempt to rise. Neither dared they rush out to 
drag me in. 

"The masses of Indians had begun to move upon the 
fort. They rode up in squadrons, trailing their long 
chusos; then dismounted out of musket-shot, and, throw- 
ing ofiF their fur mantles, advanced naked to the attack, 
stamping their feet and shouting in cadence. A sheet 
of flame ran three times along the face of the fort with- 
out checking their steady march. They crowded right 
up to the very stakes, flourishing their broad knives. 
But this palisade was not fastened together with hide 
lashings in the usual way, but with long iron nails, 
which they could not cut. Dismayed at the failure of 
their usual method of forcing an entrance, the heathen, 
who had marched so steadily against the musketry 
fire, broke and fled under the volleys of the besieged. 

"Directly they had passed me on their advance I 
got up and rejoined Gaspar Ruiz on a low ridge which 



72 A SET OF SIX 

jutted out upon the plain. The musketry of his own 
men had covered the attack, but now at a sign from 
him a trumpet sounded the 'Cease fire.' Together 
we looked in silence at the hopeless rout of the savages. 

"Tt must be a siege, then,' he muttered. And I 
detected him wringing his hands stealthily. 

"But what sort of siege could it be? Without any 
need for me to repeat my friend Pajol's message, he 
dared not cut the water off from the besieged. They 
had plenty of meat. And, indeed, if they had been 
short, he would have been too anxious to send food into 
the stockade had he been able. But, as a matter of 
fact, it was we on the plain who were beginning to feel 
the pinch of hunger. 

"Peneleo, the Indian chief, sat by our fire folded in 
his ample mantle of guanaco skins. He was an athletic 
savage, with an enormous square shock head of hair 
resembling a straw beehive in shape and size, and with 
grave, surly, much-lined features. In his broken Span- 
ish he repeated, growling like a bad-tempered wild 
beast, that if an opening ever so small were made in the 
stockade his men would march in and get the sefiora — 
not otherwise. 

"Caspar Ruiz, sitting opposite him, kept his eyes 
fixed on the fort night and day as it were, in awful 
silence and immobility. Meantime, by runners from 
the lowlands that arrived nearly every day, we heard 
of the defeat of one of his lieutenants in the Maipu 



CASPAR RUIZ 7S 

valley. Scouts sent afar brought news of a column of 
infantry advancing through distant passes to the relief 
of the fort. They were slow, but we could trace their 
toilful progress up the lower valleys. I wondered why 
Ruiz did not march to attack and destroy this threaten- 
ing force, in some wild gorge fit for an ambuscade, in 
accordance with his genius for guerilla warfare. But his 
genius seemed to have abandoned him to his despair. 

"It was obvious to me that he could not tear himself 
away from the sight of the fort. I protest to you, 
senores, that I was moved almost to pity by the sight of 
this powerless strong man sitting on the ridge, indiffer- 
ent to sun, to rain, to cold, to wind; with his hands 
clasped round his legs and his chin resting on his 
knees, gazing — gazing — gazing. 

"And the fort he kept his eyes fastened on was as 
still and silent as himself. The garrison gave no sign of 
life. They did not even answer the desultory fire di- 
rected at the loopholes. 

"One night, as I strolled past him, he, without 
changing his attitude, spoke to me unexpectedly. *I 
have sent for a gun,' he said. 'I shall have time to get 
her back and retreat before your Robles manages to 
crawl up here.' 

"He had sent for a gun to the plains. 

"It was long in coming, but at last it came. It was 
a seven-pounder field gun. Dismounted and lashed 
crosswise to two long poles, it had been carried up the 



74 A SET OF SIX 

narrow paths between two mules with ease. His wild 
cry of exultation at daybreak when he saw the gun 
escort emerge from the valley rings in my ears now. 

"But, senores, I have no words to depict his amaze- 
ment, his fury, his despair and distraction, when he 
heard that the animal loaded with the gun-carriage had, 
during the last night march, somehow or other, tumbled 
down a precipice. He broke into menaces of death and 
torture against the escort. I kept out of his way all 
that day, lying behind some bushes, and wondering 
what he would do now. Retreat was left for him; but 
he could not retreat. 

*'I saw below me his artillerist, Jorge, an old Spanish 
soldier, building up a sort of structure with heaped-up 
saddles. The gun, ready loaded, was lifted on to that, 
but in the act of firing the whole thing collapsed and 
the shot flew high above the stockade. 

"Nothing more was attempted. One of the ammu- 
nition mules had been lost, too, and they had no more 
than six shots to fire; amply enough to batter down the 
gate providing the gun was well laid. This was im- 
possible without it being properly mounted. There 
was no time nor means to construct a carriage. Al- 
ready every moment I expected to hear Robles' bugle- 
calls echo amongst the crags. 

"Peneleo, wandering about uneasily, draped in his 
skins, sat down for a moment near me growling his 
usual tale. 



CASPAR RUIZ 75 

"'Make an entrada — a hole. If make a hole, hueno. 
If not make a hole, then vamos — we must go away.' 

"After sunset I observed with surprise the Indians 
making preparations as if for another assault. Their 
lines stood ranged in the shadows of the mountains. 
On the plain in front of the fort gate I saw a group 
of men swaying about in the same place. 

"I walked down the ridge disregarded. The moon- 
light in the clear air of the uplands was bright as day, 
but the intense shadows confused my sight, and I could 
not make out what they were doing. I heard the voice 
of Jorge, the artillerist, say in a queer, doubtful tone: 
'It is loaded, senor.' 

"Then another voice in that group pronounced firmly 
the words: 'Bring the riata here.' It was the voice of 
Gaspar Ruiz. 

"A silence fell, in which the popping shots of the 
besieged garrison rang out sharply. They, too, had 
observed the group. But the distance was too great, 
and in the spatter of spent musket-balls cutting up the 
ground, the group opened, closed, swayed, giving me a 
glimpse of busy stooping figures in its midst. I drew 
nearer, doubting whether this was a weird vision, a 
suggestive and insensate dream. 

"A strangely stifled voice commanded, 'Haul the 
hitches tighter.' 

" *»Si, senor, ^ several other voices answered in tones of 
awed alacrity. 



76 A SET OF SIX 

"Then the stifled voice said: 'Like this. I must 
be free to breathe.' 

"Then there was a concerned noise of many men 
together. 'Help him up, homhres. Steady! Under 
the other arm.' 

"That deadened voice ordered: 'Buenol Stand away 
from me, men.' 

"I pushed my way through the recoiling circle, and 
heard once more that same oppressed voice saying 
earnestly: 'Forget that I am a living man, Jorge. 
Forget me altogether, and think of what you have to 
do.' 

"'Be without fear, senor. You are nothing to me 
but a gun-carriage, and I shall not waste a shot.' 

"I heard the spluttering of a port -fire, and smelt the 
saltpetre of the match. I saw suddenly before me a 
nondescript shape on all fours like a beast, but with a 
man's head drooping below a tubular projection over 
the nape of the neck, and the gleam of a rounded mass 
of bronze on its back. 

"In front of a silent semicircle of men it squatted 
alone, with Jorge behind it and a trumpeter motionless, 
his trumpet in his hand, by its side. 

"Jorge, bent double, muttered, port-fire in hand: 
*An inch to the left, sefior. Too much. So. Now, if 
you let yourself down a little by letting your elbows 
bend, I will . . .* 

"He leaped aside, lowering his port-fire, and a burst 



GASPAR RUIZ 77 

of flame darted out of the muzzle of the gun lashed 
on the man's back. 

"Then Gaspar Ruiz lowered himself slowly. 'Good 
shot?' he asked. j 

"'Full on, senor.* 

"'Then load again.' 

"He lay there before me on his breast under the 
darkly glittering bronze of his monstrous burden, such 
as no love or strength of man had ever had to bear in 
the lamentable history of the world. His arms were 
spread out, and he resembled a prostrate penitent on the 
moonlit ground. 

"Again I saw him raised to his hands and knees, 
and the men stand away from him, and old Jorge stoop, 
glancing along the gun. 

"'Left a little. Right an inch. Por Dios, sefior, 
stop this trembling. "VMiere is your strength?' 

"The old gunner's voice was cracked with emotion. 
He stepped aside, and quick as lightning brought the 
spark to the touch-hole. 

"'Excellent!' he cried tearfully; but Gaspar Ruiz lay 
for a long time silent, flattened on the ground. 

"*I am tired,' he murmured at last. 'WUl another 
shot do it?' 

"'Without doubt,' said Jorge, bending down to his 
ear. 

"'Then — load,' I heard him utter distinctly. 'Trum- 
peter!' 



78 A SET OF SIX 

"*I am here, senor, ready for your word.' 

"'Blow a blast at this word that shall be heard 
from one end of Chile to the other,' he said, in an 
extraordinarily strong voice. 'And you others stand 
ready to cut this accursed riata, for then will be the 
time for me to lead you in your rush. Now raise me 
up, and you, Jorge — be quick with your aim.' 

"The rattle of musketry from the fort nearly drowned 
his voice. The palisade was wreathed in smoke and 
flame. 

"'Exert your force forward against the recoil, mi 
amo,' said the old gunner shakily. 'Dig your fingers 
into the ground. So. Now!' 

"A cry of exultation escaped him after the shot. 
The trumpeter raised his trumpet nearly to his lips, 
and waited. But no word came from the prostrate 
man. I fell on one knee, and heard all he had to say 
then. 

"'Something broken,' he whispered, lifting his head 
a little, and turning his eyes toward me in his hope- 
lessly crushed attitude. 

"'The gate hangs only by the splinters,' yelled Jorge. 

" Caspar Ruiz tried to speak, but his voice died out 
in his throat, and I helped to roll the gun off his broken 
back. He was insensible. 

"I kept my lips shut, of course. The signal for the 
Indians to attack was never given. Instead, the bugle- 
calls of the reheving force, for which my ears had thirsted 



CASPAR RUIZ 79 

so long, burst out, terrifying like the call of the Last 
Day to our surprised enemies. 

"A tornado, senores, a real hurricane of stampeded 
men, wild horses, mounted Indians, swept over me as I 
cowered on the ground by the side of Gaspar Ruiz, still 
stretched out on his face in the shape of a cross. Pe- 
neleo, galloping for life, jabbed at me with his long chuso 
in passing — for the sake of old acquaintance, I suppose. 
How I escaped the flying lead is more difficult to ex- 
plain. Venturing to rise on my knees too soon, some 
soldiers of the Seventeenth Taltal regiment, in their hurry 
to get at something alive, nearly bayonetted me on the 
spot. They looked very disappointed, too, w^hen some 
officers galloping up drove them away with the flat of 
their swords. 

*'It was General Robles wdth his staff. He wanted 
badly to make some prisoners. He, too, seemed dis- 
appointed for a moment. '^Aliat! Is it you.'*' he cried. 
But he dismounted at once to embrace me, for he was 
an old friend of my family. I pointed to the body at 
our feet and said only these two words: 

'"Gaspar Ruiz.* 

*'He threw his arms up in astonishment. 

"'Aha! Your strong man! Alw^ays to the last 
with your strong man. No matter. He saved our 
hves w^ien the earth trembled enough to make the 
bravest faint with fear. I was frightened out of my 
wits. But he — no ! Que guape ! Where's the hero who 



80 A SET OF SIX 

got the best of him? ha! ha! ha! What killed him, 
chico?* 

"'His own strength, General,' I answered. 

"But Caspar Ruiz breathed yet. I had him carried 
in his poncho under the shelter of some bushes on the 
very ridge from which he had been gazing so fixedly 
at the fort while unseen death was hovering already 
over his head. 

"Our troops had bivouacked round the fort. Toward 
daybreak I was not surprised to hear that I was desig- 
nated to command the escort of a prisoner who was to 
be sent down at once to Santiago. Of course the 
prisoner was Caspar Ruiz' wife. 

"*I have named you out of regard for your feehngs,' 
General Robles remarked. 'Though the woman really 
ought to be shot for all the harm she has done to the 
Republic' 

"And as I made a movement of shocked protest, he 
continued : 

" *Now he is as well as dead, she is of no importance. 
Nobody will know what to do with her. However, the 
Government wants her.' He shrugged his shoulders. 
'I suppose he must have buried large quantities of his 
loot in places that she alone knows of.' 

"At dawn I saw her coming up the ridge, guarded by 
two soldiers, and carrying her child on her arm. 

"I walked to meet her. 



CASPAR RUIZ 81 

*'*Is he living yet?' she asked, confronting me with 
that white, impassive face he used to look at in an 
adoring way. 

*'I bent my head, and led her round a clump of 
bushes without a word. His eyes were open. He 
breathed with difficulty, and uttered her name with a 
great effort. 

"'Erminia!' 

"She knelt at his head. The little girl, unconscious 
of him, and with her big eyes looking about, began to 
chatter suddenly, in a joyous, thin voice. She pointed 
a tiny finger at the rosy glow of sunrise behind the 
black shapes of the peaks. And while that child-talk, 
incomprehensible and sweet to the ear, lasted, those 
two, the dying man and the kneeling woman, remained 
silent, looking into each other's eyes, listening to 
the frail sound. Then the prattle stopped. The 
child laid its head against its mother's breast and was 
still. 

"Tt was for you,' he began. 'Forgive.' His voice 
failed him. Presently I heard a mutter, and caught 
the pitiful words: *Not strong enough.' 

"She looked at him with an extraordinary intensity. 
He tried to smile, and in a humble tone, 'Forgive me,' 
he repeated. 'Leaving you . . .' 

"She bent down, dry -eyed and in a steady voice: 
'On all the earth I have loved nothing but you, Gaspar,' 
she said. 



82 A SET OF SIX 

"His head made a movement. His eyes revived. 
*At last!' he sighed out. Then, anxiously, 'But is this 
true ... is this true?' 

*"As true as that there is no mercy and justice in 
this world,' she answered him passionately. She stooped 
over his face. He tried to raise his head, but it fell back, 
and when she kissed his lips he was already dead. His 
glazed eyes stared at the sky, on which pink clouds 
floated very high. But I noticed the eyelids of the 
child, pressed to its mother's breast, droop and close 
slowly. She had gone to sleep. 

"The widow of Caspar Ruiz, the strong man, allowed 
me to lead her away without shedding a tear. 

"For travelling we had arranged for her a side- 
saddle very much like a chair, with a board swung 
beneath to rest her feet on. And the first day she rode 
without uttering a word, and hardly for one moment 
turning her eyes away from the little girl, whom she 
held on her knees. At our first camp I saw her during 
the night walking about, rocking the child in her arms 
and gazing down at it by the light of the moon. After 
we bad started on our second day's march she asked me 
how soon we should come to the first village of the in- 
habited country. 

" I said we should be there about noon. 

"'And will there be women there?' she inquired. 

"I told her that it was a large village. 'There will 
be men and women there, senora,' I said, 'whose hearts 



CASPAR RUIZ 83 

shall be made glad by the news that all the unrest and 
war is over now.' 

"'Yes, it is all over now,' she repeated. Then, after 
a time: 'Senor oflScer, what will your Government do 
with me?' 

*"I do not know, senora,' I said. 'They will treat 
you well, no doubt. We republicans are not savages, 
and take no vengeance on women.' 

"She gave me a look at the word 'republicans' which 
I imagined full of undying hate. But an hour or so 
afterward, as we drew up to let the baggage mules go 
first along a narrow path skirting a precipice, she looked 
at me with such a white, troubled face that I felt a great 
pity for her. 

"'Senor officer,' she said, 'I am weak, I tremble. It 
is an insensate fear.' And indeed her hps did tremble, 
while she tried to smile, glancing at the beginning of the 
narrow path which was not so dangerous after all. 'I am 
afraid I shall drop the child. Caspar saved your life, 
you remember. . . . Take her from me.' 

' ' I took the child out of her extended arms . ' Shut your 
eyes, senora, and trust to your mule,' I recommended. 

"She did so, and with her pallor and her wasted 
thin face she looked deathlike. At a turn of the path, 
where a great crag of purple porphyry closes the view of 
the lowlands, I saw her open her eyes. I rode just 
behind her holding the little girl with my right arm. 
'The child is all right,' I cried encouragingly. 



84 A SET OF SIX 

"*Yes,' she answered faintly; and then, to my intense 
terror, I saw her stand up on the foot-rest, staring 
horribly, and throw herself forward into the chasm on 
our right. 

"I cannot describe to you the sudden and abject 
fear that came over me at that dreadful sight. It was 
a dread of the abyss, the dread of the crags which 
seemed to nod upon me. My head swam. I pressed 
the child to my side and sat my horse as still as a 
statue. I was speechless and cold all over. Her mule 
staggered, sidhng close to the rock, and then went 
on. My horse only pricked up his ears with a slight 
snort. My heart stood still, and from the depths of 
the precipice the stones rattling in the bed of the furi- 
ous stream made me almost insane with their sound. 

"Next moment we were round the turn and on a 
broad and grassy slope. And then I yelled. My men 
came running back to me in great alarm. It seems 
that at first I did nothing but shout, 'She has given 
the child into my hands! She has given the child into 
my hands!' The escort thought I had gone mad." 

General Santierra ceased and got up from the table. 
"And that is all, senores," he concluded, with a courte- 
ous glance at his rising guests. 

"But what became of the child, General.''" we asked. 

"Ah, the child, the cliild." 

He walked to one of the windows opening on his 



CASPAR RUIZ 85 

beautiful garden, the refuge of his old days. Its fame 
was great in the land. Keeping us back with a raised 
arm, he called out, "Erminia! Erminia!" and waited. 
Then his cautioning arm dropped, and we crowded to 
the windows. 

From a clump of trees a woman had come upon the 
broad walk bordered with flowers. We could hear 
the rustle of her starched petticoats and observ^ed the 
ample spread of her old-fashioned black silk skirt. She 
looked up, and seeing all these eyes staring at her, 
stopped, frowned, smiled, shook her finger at the Gen- 
eral, who was laughing boisterously, and drawing the 
black lace on her head so as to partly conceal her 
haughty profile, passed out of our sight, walking with 
stiff dignity. 

"You have beheld the guardian angel of the old man 
— and her to whom you owe all that is seemly and com- 
fortable in my hospitality. Somehow, sefiores, though 
the flame of love has been kindled early in my breast, I 
have never married. And because of that perhaps the 
sparks of the sacred fire are not yet extinct here." He 
struck his broad chest. "Still alive, still alive," he 
said, with serio-comic emphasis. "But I shall not 
marry now. She is General Santierra's adopted daugh- 
ter and heiress." 

One of our fellow-guests, a young naval oflBcer, 
described her afterward as a "short, stout old girl of 
forty or thereabouts." We had all noticed that her hair 



86 A SET OF SIX 

was turning gray, and that she had very fine black 
eyes. 

"And," General Santierra continued, "neither would 
she ever hear of marrying any one. A real calamity! 
Good, patient, devoted to the old man, A simple soul. 
But I would not advise any of you to ask for her hand, 
for if she took yours into hers it would be only to 
crush your bones. Ah! she does not jest on that sub- 
ject. And she is the own daughter of her father, the 
strong man who perished through his own strength: 
the strength of his body, of his simphcity — of his love!" 



AN mONIC TALE 



THE INFORIVIER 

MR. X. came to me, preceded by a letter of intro- 
duction from a good friend of mine in Paris, 
specifically to see my collection of Chinese 
bronzes and porcelain. 

My friend in Paris is a collector, too. He collects 
neither porcelain, nor bronzes, nor pictures, nor medals, 
nor stamps, nor anything that could be profitably dis- 
persed under an auctioneer's hammer. He would re- 
ject, with genuine surprise, the name of a collector. 
Nevertheless, that's what he is by temperament. He 
collects acquaintances. It is delicate work. He brings 
to it the patience, the passion, the determination of a 
true collector of curiosities. His collection does not 
contain any royal personages. I don't think he con- 
siders them sufficiently rare and interesting; but, with 
that exception, he has met with and talked to every 
one worth knowing on any conceivable ground. He 
observes them, listens to them, penetrates them, meas- 
ures them, and puts the memory away in the galleries 
of his mmd. He has schemed, plotted, and travelled 
all over Europe in order to add to his collection of dis- 
tinguished personal acquaintances. 

As he is wealthy, well connected, and unprejudiced, 

89 



90 A SET OF SIX 

his collection is pretty complete, including objects (or 
should I say subjects?) whose value is unappreciated 
by the vulgar, and often unknown to popular fame. Of 
those specimens my friend is naturally the most proud. 

He wrote to me of X.: "He is the greatest rebel 
(revolte) of modern times. The world knows him as a 
revolutionary writer whose savage irony has laid bare 
the rottenness of the most respectable institutions. He 
has scalped every venerated head, and has mangled at 
the stake of his wit every received opinion and every 
recognized principle of conduct and policy. Who does 
not remember his flaming red revolutionary pam- 
phlets? Their sudden swarmings used to overwhelm the 
powers of every Continental police like a plague of 
crimson gadflies. But this extreme writer has been 
also the active inspirer of secret societies, the myste- 
rious unknown Number One of desperate conspiracies 
suspected and unsuspected, matured or baffled. And 
the world at large has never had an inkling of that 
fact ! This accounts for him going about amongst us to 
this day, a veteran of many subterranean campaigns, 
standing aside now, safe within his reputation of merely 
the greatest destructive publicist that ever lived.*' 

Thus wrote my friend, adding that Mr. X. was an en- 
lightened connoisseur of bronzes and china, and asking 
me to show him my collection. 

X. turned up in due course. My treasures are dis- 
posed in three large rooms without carpets and curtains. 



THE INFORMER 91 

There is no other furniture than the etagercs and the 
glass cases whose contents shall be worth a fortune to my 
heirs. I allow no fires to be lighted, for fear of accidents, 
and a fireproof door separates them from the rest of 
the house. 

It was a bitter cold day. We kept on our overcoats 
and hats. Middle-sized and spare, his eyes alert in a 
long, Roman-nosed countenance, X. walked on his neat 
little feet, with short steps, and looked at my collection 
intelligently. I hope I looked at him intelligently, 
too. A snow-white moustache and imperial made his 
nut-brown complexion appear darker than it really was. 
In his fur coat and shiny tall hat that terrible man 
looked fashionable. I believe he belonged to a noble 
family, and could have called himself Vicomte X. de la 
Z. if he chose. We talked nothing but bronzes and 
porcelain. He was remarkably appreciative. We parted 
on cordial terms. 

WTiere he was staying I don't know. I imagine he 
must have been a lonely man. Anarchists, I suppose, 
have no families — not, at any rate, as we understand 
that social relation. Organization into families may 
answer to a need of human nature, but in the last in- 
stance it is based on law, and therefore must be some- 
thing odious and impossible to an anarchist. But, 
indeed, I don't understand anarchists. Does a man of 
that — of that — persuasion still remain an anarchist 
when alone, quite alone and going to bed, for instance? 



92 A SET OF SIX 

Does he lay his head on the pillow, pull his bedclothes 
over him, and go to sleep with the necessity of the 
chamhardement general, as the French slang has it, of 
the general blow-up, always present to his mind? And 
if so, how can he? I am sure that if such a faith (or 
such a fanaticism) once mastered my thoughts I 
would never be able to compose myself suflficiently 
to sleep or eat or perform any of the routine acts of 
daily life. I would want no wife, no children; I could 
have no friends, it seems to me; and as to collecting 
bronzes or china, that, I should say, would be quite 
out of the question. But I don't know. All I know 
is that Mr. X. took his meals in a very good restau- 
rant which I frequented also. 

With his head uncovered, the silver topknot of his 
brushed-up hair completed the character of his physi- 
ognomy, all bony ridges and sunken hollows, clothed 
in a perfect impassiveness of expression. His meagre 
brown hands emerging from large white cuffs came and 
went breaking bread, pouring wine, and so on, with 
quiet mechanical precision. His head and body above 
the tablecloth had a rigid immobility. This firebrand, 
this great agitator, exhibited the least possible amount 
of warmth and animation. His voice was rasping, 
cold, and monotonous in a low key. He could not be 
called a talkative personality; but with his detached 
calm manner he appeared as ready to keep the conver- 
sation going as to drop it at any moment. 



THE INFORMER 93 

And his conversation was by no means common- 
place. To me, I own, there was some excitement in 
talking quietly across a dinner-table with a man whose 
venomous pen-stabs had sapped the vitality of at least 
one monarchy. That much was a matter of public 
knowledge. But I knew more. I knew of him — from 
my friend — as a certainty what the guardians of social 
order in Europe had at most only suspected, or dimly 
guessed at. 

He had had what I may call his underground life. 
And as I sat, evening after evening, facing him at 
dinner, a curiosity in that direction would naturally 
arise in my mind. I am a quiet and peaceable product 
of civilization, and know no passion other than the 
passion for collecting things which are rare, and must 
remain exquisite even if approaching to the monstrous. 
Some Chinese bronzes are monstrously precious. And 
here (out of my friend's collection), here I had before me 
a kind of rare monster. It is true that this monster was 
polished and in a sense even exquisite. His beautiful 
unruffled manner was that. But then he was not of 
bronze. He was not even Chinese, which would have 
enabled one to contemplate him calmly across the gulf 
of racial difference. He was alive and European; he 
had the manner of good society, wore a coat and hat 
like mine, and had pretty near the same taste in cooking. 
It was too frightful to think of. 

One evening he remarked, casually, in the course of 



94 A SET OF SIX 

conversation, "There's no amendment to be got out of 
mankind except by terror and violence." 

You can imagine the effect of such a phrase out of 
such a man's mouth upon a person Hke myself, whose 
whole scheme of life had been based upon a suave and 
delicate discrimination of social and artistic values. 
Just imagine! Upon me, to whom all sorts and forms 
of violence appeared as unreal as the giants, ogres, and 
seven-headed hydras whose activities affect, fantasti- 
cally, the course of legends and fairy-tales! 

I seemed suddenly to hear above the festive bustle 
and clatter of the brilliant restaurant the mutter of a 
hungry and seditious multitude. 

I suppose I am impressionable and imaginative. I 
had a disturbing vision of darkness, full of lean jaws and 
wild eyes, amongst the hundred electric lights of the 
place. But somehow this vision made me angry, too. 
The sight of that man, so calm, breaking bits of white 
bread, exasperated me. And I had the audacity to ask 
him how it was that the starving proletariat of Europe 
to whom he had been preaching revolt and violence had 
not been made indignant by his openly luxurious life. 
"At all this," I said, pointedly, with a glance round the 
room and at the bottle of champagne we generally 
shared between us at dinner. 

He remained unmoved. 

"Do I feed on their toil and their heart's blood.^ 
Am I a speculator or a capitalist? Did I steal my 



THE INFORMER 95 

fortune from a starving people? No! They know this 
very well. And they envy me nothing. The miserable 
mass of the people is generous to its leaders. What I 
have acquired has come to me through my writings; not 
from the millions of pamphlets distributed gratis to the 
hungry and the oppressed, but from the hundreds of 
thousands of copies sold to the well-fed bourgeois. You 
know that my writings were at one time the rage, the 
fashion — the thing to read with wonder and horror, to 
turn your eyes up at my pathos ... or else to 
laugh in ecstasies at my wit." 

"Yes," I admitted. "I remember, of course; and I 
confess frankly that I could never understand that in- 
fatuation." 

"Don't you loiow yet," he said, "that an idle and 
selfish class loves to see mischief being made, even if it 
is made at its own expense.'* Its own life being all a 
matter of pose and gesture, it is unable to reahze the 
power and the danger of a real movement and of words 
that have no sham meaning. It is all fun and senti- 
ment. It is sufficient, for instance, to point out the atti- 
tude of the old French aristocracy toward the philoso- 
phers whose words were preparing the Great Revolution. 
Even in England, where you have some common 
sense, a demagogue has only to shout loud enough 
and long enough to find some backing in the very class 
he is shouting at. You, too, like to see mischief bein^ 
made. The demagogue carries the amateurs of emo- 



96 A SET OF SIX 

tion with him. Amateurism in this, that, and the 
other thing is a dehghtfully easy way of kilhng time, 
and of feeding one's own vanity — the silly vanity of 
being abreast with the ideas of the day after to-morrow. 
Just as good and otherwise harmless people will join 
you in ecstasies over your collection without having 
the slightest notion in what its marvellousness really 
consists." 

I hung my head. It was a crushing illustration of 
the sad truth he advanced. The world is full of such 
people. And that instance of the French aristocracy 
before the Revolution was extremely telling, too. I 
could not traverse his statement, though its cynicism — 
always a distasteful trait — took off much of its value, 
to my mind. However, I admit I was impressed. I 
felt the need to say something which would not be in 
the nature of assent and yet would not invite discussion. 

"You don't mean to say," I observed, airily, "that 
extreme revolutionists have ever been actively as- 
sisted by the infatuation of such people.'^" 

"I did not mean exactly that by what I said just 
now. I generalized. But since you ask me, I may tell 
you that such help has been given to revolutionary 
activities, more or less consciously, in various countries. 
And even in this country." 

"Impossible!" I protested with firmness. "We 
don't play with fire to that extent." 

"And yet you can better afford it than others. 



THE INFORMER 97 

perhaps. But let me observe that most women, if not 
always ready to play with fire, are generally eager to 
play with a loose spark or so." 

"Is this a joke.^" I asked, smiling. 

"If it is, I am not aware of it," he said, woodenly. 
"I was thinking of an instance. Oh! mild enough in a 
way . . ." 

I became all expectation at this. I had tried many 
times to approach him on his underground side, so to 
speak. The very word had been pronounced between 
us. But he had always met me with his impenetrable 
calm. 

"And at the same time," Mr. X. continued, "it will 
give you a notion of the difficulties that may arise in 
what you are pleased to call underground work. It is 
sometimes difficult to deal with them. Of course there 
is no hierarchy amongst the affiliated. No rigid sys- 
tem." 

My surprise was great, but short-lived. Clearly, 
amongst extreme anarchists there could be no hier- 
archy; nothing in the nature of a law^ of precedence. 
The idea of anarchy ruling among anarchists was 
comforting, too. It could not possibly make for 
efficiency. 

Mr. X. startled me by asking abruptly, "You know 
Hermione Street.'" 

I nodded doubtful assent. Hermione Street has 
been, within the last three years, improved out of any 



98 A SET OF SIX 

man's knowledge. The name exists still, but not one 
brick or stone of the old Hermione Street is left now. 
It was the old street he meant, for he said: 

"There was a row of two-storied brick houses on the 
left, with their backs against the wing of a great public 
building — you remember. Would it surprise you very 
much to hear that one of these houses was for a time 
the centre of anarchist propaganda and of what you 
would call underground action.^" 

"Not at all," I declared. Hermione Street had 
never been particularly respectable, as I remembered it. 

"The house was the property of a distinguished 
government official," he added, sipping his champagne. 

"Oh, indeed!" I said, this time not believing a word 
of it. 

"Of course he was not living there," Mr. X. con- 
tinued. "But from ten till four he sat next door to it, 
the dear man, in his well-appointed private room in 
the wing of the public building I've mentioned. To 
be strictly accurate, I must explain that the house in 
Hermione Street did not really belong to him. It be- 
longed to his grown-up children — a daughter and a son. 
The girl, a fine figure, was by no means vulgarly pretty. 
To more personal charm than mere youth could account 
for she added the seductive appearance of enthusiasm, 
of independence, of courageous thought. I suppose 
she put on these appearances as she put on her pictu- 
resque dresses and for the same reason : to assert her in- 



THE INFORMER 99 

dividuality at any cost. You know, women would go 
to any length almost for such a purpose. She went to a 
great length. She had acquired all the appropriate 
gestures of revolutionary convictions — the gestures of 
pity, of anger, of indignation against the anti-humani- 
tarian vices of the social class to which she belonged 
herself. All this sat on her striking personality as well 
as her slightly original costumes. Very slightly origi- 
nal; just enough to mark a protest against the philis- 
tinism of the overfed taskmasters of the poor. Just 
enough, and no more. It would not have done to go too 
far in that direction — you understand. But she was of 
age, and nothing stood in the way of her offering her 
house to the revolutionary workers." 

"You don't mean it!" I cried. 

"I assure you," he affirmed, "that she made that very 
practical gesture. How else could they have got hold 
of it.'' The cause is not rich. And, moreover, there 
would have been difficulties with any ordinary house- 
agent, who would have wanted references and so on. 
The group she came in contact with while exploring 
the poor quarters of the town (you know the gesture 
of charity and personal service which was so fashion- 
able some years ago) accepted with gratitude. The 
first advantage was that Hermione Street is, as you 
know, well away from the suspect part of the town, 
specially watched by the police. 

"The ground floor consisted of a little Italian restau- 



100 A SET OF SIX 

rant, of the flyblown sort. There was no difficulty in 
buying the proprietor out. A woman and a man be- 
longing to the group took it on. The man had been 
a cook. The comrades could get their meals there, 
unnoticed amongst the other customers. This was 
another advantage. The first floor was occupied by a 
shabby Variety Artists' Agency — an agency for per- 
formers in inferior music-halls, you know. A fellow 
called Bomm, I remember. He was not disturbed. It 
was rather favourable than otherwise to have a lot of 
foreign-looking people, jugglers, acrobats, singers of 
both sexes, and so on, going in and out all day long. 
The police paid no attention to new faces, you see. 
The top floor happened, most conveniently, to stand 
empty then." 

X. interrupted himself to attack impassively, with 
measured movements, a bombe glacee which the waiter 
had just set down on the table. He swallowed care- 
fully a few spoonfuls of the iced sweet, and asked me: 
"Did you ever hear of Stone's Dried Soup.'*" 

''Rear oi what?" 

"It was," X. pursued evenly, "a comestible article, 
once rather prominently advertised in the dailies, but 
which never, somehow, gained the favour of the public. 
The enterprise fizzled out, as you say here. Parcels of 
their stock could be picked up at auctions at consider- 
ably less than a penny a pound. The group bought 
some of it, and an agency for Stone's Dried Soup was 



THE INFORMER 101 

started on the top floor. A perfectly respectable busi- 
ness. The stuff, a yellow powder of extremely unappe- 
tizing aspect, was put up in large square tins, of which 
six went to a case. If anybody ever came to give an 
order, it was, of course, executed. But the advantage 
of the powder was this, that things could be concealed 
in it very conveniently. Now and then a special case 
got put on a van and sent off to be exported abroad 
under the very nose of the pohceman on duty at the 
corner. You understand ? ' ' 

"I think I do," I said, with an expressive nod at the 
remnants of the homhe melting slowly in the dish. 

''Exactly. But the cases were useful in another way, 
too. In the basement, or in the cellar at the back, 
rather, two printing-presses were established. A lot of 
revolutionary literature of the most inflammatory kind 
was got away from the house in Stone's Dried Soup 
cases. The brother of our anarchist young lady found 
some occupation there. He wrote articles, helped to 
set up type and pull off the sheets, and generally 
assisted the man in charge, a very able young fellow 
named Sevrin. 

"The guiding spirit of that group was a fanatic of 
social revolution. He is dead now. He was an en- 
graver and etcher of genius. You must have seen his 
work. It is much sought after by certain amateurs 
now. He began by being revolutionary in his art, and 
ended by becoming a revolutionist, after his wife and 



102 A SET OF SIX 

child had died in want and misery. He used to say 
that the bourgeois, the smug overfed lot, had killed 
them. That was his real belief. He still worked at 
his art and led a double life. He was tall, gaunt, and 
swarthy, with a long, brown beard and deep-set eyes. 
You must have seen him. His name was Home." 

At this I was really startled. Of course years ago I 
used to meet Home about. He looked like a powerful, 
rough gipsy, in an old top hat, with red muffler round 
his throat, and buttoned up in a long, shabby overcoat. 
He talked of his art with exultation, and gave one the 
impression of being strung up to the verge of insanity. 
A small group of connoisseurs appreciated his work. 
Who would have thought that this man. . . . 
Amazing! And yet it was not, after all, so difficult to 
believe. 

*'As you see," X. went on, "this group was in a posi- 
tion to pursue its work of propaganda, and the other 
kind of work, too, under very advantageous conditions. 
They were all resolute, experienced men of a superior 
stamp. And yet we became struck at length by the 
fact that plans prepared in Hermione Street almost 
invariably failed." 

"Who were 'we'.''" I asked pointedly. 

"Some of us in Brussels — at the centre," he said 
hastily. "Whatever vigorous action originated in Her- 
mione Street seemed doomed to failure. Something 
always happened to baffle the best-planned manifesta- 



THE INFORMER 103 

tions in every part of Europe. It was a time of general 
activity. You must not imagine that all our failures 
are of a loud sort, with arrests and trials. That is not 
so. Often the police work quietly, almost secretly, 
defeating our combinations by clever counterplotting. 
No arrests, no noise, no alarming of the public mind 
and inflaming of passions. It is a wise procedure. 
But at that time the police were too uniformly success- 
ful from Mediterranean to the Baltic. It was annoy- 
ing and began to look dangerous. At last we came to 
the conclusion that there must be some untrustworthy 
elements amongst the London groups. And I came 
over to see what could be done quietly. 

"My first step was to call upon our young Lady 
Amateur of anarchism at her private house. She re- 
ceived me in a flattering way. I judged that she knew 
nothing of the chemical and other operations going on 
at the top of the house in Hermione Street. The print- 
ing of the anarchist literature was the only ' activity ' she 
seemed to be aware of there. She was displaying very 
strikingly the usual signs of severe enthusiasm, and had 
already written many sentimental articles with ferocious 
conclusions. I could see she was enjoying herself 
hugely, with all the gestures and grimaces of deadly 
earnestness. They suited her big-eyed, broad-browed 
face and the good carriage of her shapely head, crowned 
by a magnificent lot of brown hair done in an unusual 
and becoming style. Her brother was in the room, too. 



104 A SET OF SIX 

a serious youth, with arched eyebrows and wearing a red 
necktie, who struck me as being absolutely in the dark 
about everything in the world, including himself. By 
and by a tall young man came in. He was clean shaved, 
with a strong bluish jaw and something of the air of a 
taciturn actor or of a fanatical priest: the type with 
thick black eyebrows — you know. But he was very 
presentable indeed. He shook hands at once vigor- 
ously with each of us. The young lady came up to me 
and murmured sweetly, ' Comrade Sevrin.' 

*'I had never seen him before. He had little to say 
to us, but sat down by the side of the girl, and they fell 
at once into earnest conversation. She leaned forward 
in her deep armchair, and took her nicely rounded chin 
in her beautiful white hand. He looked attentively into 
her eyes. It was the attitude of love-making, serious, 
intense, as if on the brink of the grave. I suppose she 
felt it necessary to round and complete her assumption 
of advanced ideas, of revolutionary lawlessness, by 
making believe to be in love with an anarchist. And 
this one, I repeat, was extremely presentable, notwith- 
standing his fanatical black-browed aspect. After a 
few stolen glances in their direction, I had no doubt that 
he was in earnest. As to the lady, her gestures were 
unapproachable, better than the very thing itself in the 
blended suggestion of dignity, sweetness, condescen- 
sion, fascination, surrender, and reserve. She inter- 
preted her conception of what that precise sort of love- 



THE INFORMER 105 

making should be with consummate art. And so far, 
she, too, no doubt, was in earnest. Gestures — but so 
perfect ! 

"After I had been left alone with our Lady Amateur 
I informed her guardedly of the object of my visit. I 
hinted at our suspicions. I wanted to hear what she 
would have to say, and half expected some perhaps 
unconscious revelation. All she said was: 'That's 
serious,' looking delightfully concerned and grave. But 
there was a sparkle in her eyes which meant plainly, 
'How exciting!' After all, she knew little of anything 
except of words. Still she undertook to put me in 
communication with Home, who was not easy to find, 
unless in Hermione Street, where I did not wish to show 
myself just then. 

"I met Home. This was another kind of a fanatic 
altogether. I exposed to him the conclusion we in 
Brussels had arrived at, and pointed out the signifi- 
cant series of failures. To this he answered with ir- 
relevant exaltation : 

"T have something in hand that shall strike terror 
into the heart of these gorged brutes.' " 

"And then I learned that, by excavating in one of 
the cellars of the house, he and some companions had 
made their way into the vaults under the great public 
building I have mentioned before. The blowing up of a 
whole wing was a certainty as soon as the materials 
were ready. 



106 A SET OF SIX 

"I was not so appalled at the stupidity of that move 
as I might have been had not the usefulness of our 
centre in Hermione Street become already very prob- 
lematical. In fact, in my opinion it was much more 
of a police trap by this time than anything else. 

"What was necessary now was to discover what, or 
rather who, was wrong, and I managed at last to get 
that idea into Home's head. He glared, perplexed, 
his nostrils working as if he were sniffing treachery in 
the air. 

"And here comes a piece of work which will no doubt 
strike you as a sort of theatrical expedient. And yet 
what else could have been done.'^ The problem was to 
find out the untrustworthy member of the group. But 
no suspicion could be fastened on one more than another. 
To set a watch upon them all was not very practicable. 
Besides, that proceeding often fails. In any case, it 
takes time, and the danger was pressing. I felt certain 
that the premises in Hermione Street would be ulti- 
mately raided, though the police had evidently such 
confidence in the informer that the house, for the time 
being, was not even watched. Home was positive 
on that point. Under the circumstances it was an 
unfavourable symptom. Something had to be done 
quickly. 

"I decided to organize a raid myself upon the group. 
Do you understand.'^ A raid of other trusty comrades 
personating the police. A conspiracy within a con- 



THE INFORMER 107 

spiracy. You see the object of it, of course. WTien 
apparently about to be arrested I hoped the informer 
would betray himself in some way or other; either by 
some unguarded act or simply by his unconcerned de- 
meanour, for instance. Of course there was the risk of 
complete failure and the no lesser risk of some fatal 
accident in the course of resistance, perhaps, or in the 
efforts at escape. For, as you will easily see, the Her- 
mione Street group had to be actually and completely 
taken unawares, as I was sure they would be by the real 
police before very long. The informer was amongst 
them, and Home alone could be let into the secret of 
my plan. 

"I will not enter into the detail of my preparations. 
It was not very easy to arrange, but it was done very 
well, with a really convincing effect. The sham police 
invaded the restuarant, whose shutters were immediately 
put up. The surprise was perfect. Most of the Her- 
mione Street party were found in the second cellar, 
enlarging the hole communicating with the vaults of 
the great public building. At the first alarm, several 
comrades bolted through impulsively into the aforesaid 
vault, where, of course, had this been a genuine raid, 
they would have been hopelessly trapped. We did not 
bother about them for the moment. They were harm- 
less enough. The top floor caused considerable anxiety 
to Home and myself. There, surrounded by tins of 
Stone's Dried Soup, a comrade, nick-named the Pro- 



108 A SET OF SIX 

fessor (he was an ex-science student) was engaged in 
perfecting some new detonators. He was an abstracted, 
self-confident, sallow little man, armed with large round 
spectacles, and we were afraid that under a mistaken 
impression he would blow himseK up and wreck the 
house about our ears. I rushed upstairs and found 
him already at the door, on the alert, listening, as he 
said, to 'suspicious noises down below.' Before I had 
quite finished explaining to him what was going on, he 
shrugged his shoulders disdainfully and turned away to 
his balances and test-tubes. His was the true spirit of 
an extreme revolutionist. Explosives were his faith, his 
hope, his weapon, and his sliield. He perished a couple 
of years afterward in a secret laboratory through the 
premature explosion of one of his improved detonators. 
"Hurrying down again, I found an impressive scene 
in the gloom of the big cellar. The man who person- 
ated the inspector (he was no stranger to the part) was 
speaking harshly, and giving bogus orders to his bogus 
subordinates for the removal of his prisoners. Evi- 
dently nothing enlightening had happened so far. 
Home, saturnine and swarthy, waited with folded 
arms, and his patient, moody expectation had an air of 
stoicism well in keeping with the situation. I detected 
in the shadows one of the Hermione Street group sur- 
reptitiously chewing up and swallowing a small piece of 
paper. Some compromising scrap, I suppose; perhaps 
just a note of a few names and addresses. He was a 



THE INFORMER 109 

true and faithful 'companion.' But the fund of secret 
mahce which lurks at the bottom of our sympathies 
caused me to feel amused at that perfectly uncalled- 
for performance. / 

"In every other respect the risky experiment, the 
theatrical coup, if you like to call it so, seemed to have 
failed. The deception could not be kept up much 
longer; the explanation would bring about a very 
embarrassing and even grave situation. The man who 
had eaten the paper would be fm-ious. The fellows who 
had bolted away would be angry, too. 

"To add to my vexation, the door communicating 
with the other cellar, where the printing-presses were, 
flew open, and our young lady revolutionist appeared, 
a black silhouette in a close-fitting dress and a large hat, 
with the blaze of gas flaring in there at her back. Over 
her shoulder I perceived the arched eyebrows and the 
red necktie of her brother. 

"The last people in the world I wanted to see then! 
They had gone that evening to some amateur concert 
for the delectation of the poor people, you know; but 
she had insisted on leaving early, on purpose to call in 
Hermione Street on the way home, under the pretext of 
having some work to do. Her usual task was to correct 
the proofs of the Italian and French editions of the 
Alarm Bell and the Firebrand.'' . . . 

"Heavens!" I murmured. I had been shown once a 
few copies of these publications. Nothing, in my 



110 A SET OF SIX 

opinion, could have been less fit for the eyes of a young 
lady. They were the most advanced things of the 
sort; advanced, I mean, beyond all bounds of reason 
and decency. One of them preached the dissolution 
of all social and domestic ties; the other advocated 
systematic murder. To think of a young girl calmly 
tracking printers' errors all along the sort of abominable 
sentences I remembered was intolerable to my senti- 
ment of womanhood. Mr. X., after giving me a 
glance, pursued steadily: 

"I think, however, that she came mostly to exercise 
her fascinations upon Sevrin, and to receive his homage 
in her queenly and condescending way. She was 
aware of both — her power and his homage — and en- 
joyed them with, I daresay, complete innocence. We 
have no ground in expediency or morals to quarrel 
with her on that account. Charm in woman and ex- 
ceptional intelligence in man are a law unto themselves. 
Is it not so?" 

I refrained from expressing my abhorrence of that 
licentious doctrine because of my curiosity. 

"But what happened then?" I hastened to ask. 

X. went on crumbling slowly a small piece of bread 
with a careless left hand. 

"What happened, in effect," he confessed, "is that 
she saved the situation." 

"She gave you an opportunity to end your rather 
sinister farce," I suggested. 



THE INFORMER 111 

"Yes," he said, preserving his impassive bearing. 
"The farce was bound to end soon. And it ended in a 
very few minutes. And it ended well. Had she not 
come in, it might have ended badly. Her brother, of 
course, did not count. They had slipped into the house 
quietly some time before. The printing-cellar had an 
entrance of its own. Not finding any one there, she 
sat down to her proofs, expecting Sevrin to return to his 
work at any moment. He did not do so. She grew 
impatient, heard through the door the sounds of a 
disturbance in the other cellar, and naturally came in to 
see what was the matter. 

"Sevrin had been with us. At first he had seemed 
to me the most amazed of the whole raided lot. He 
appeared for an instant as if paralyzed with astonish- 
ment. He stood rooted to the spot. He never moved 
a limb. A solitary gas-jet flared near his head; all 
the other lights had been put out at the first alarm. 
And presently, from my dark corner, I observed on his 
shaven actor's face an expression of puzzled, vexed 
watchfulness. He knitted his heavy eyebrows. The 
corners of his mouth dropped scornfully. He was 
angry. Most hkely he had seen through the game, and 
I regretted I had not taken him from the first into my 
complete confidence. 

"But with the appearance of the girl he became ob- 
viously alarmed. It was plain. I could see it grow. 
The change of his expression was swift and startling. 



112 A SET OF SIX 

And I did not know why. The reason never occurred 
to me. I was merely astonished at the extreme altera- 
tion of the man's face. Of course he had not been 
aware of her presence in the other cellar. But that did 
not explain the shock her advent had given him. For 
a moment he seemed to have been reduced to imbecility. 
He opened his mouth as if to shout, or perhaps only to 
gasp. At any rate, it was somebody else who shouted. 
This somebody else was the heroic comrade whom I 
had detected swallowing a piece of paper. "With laud- 
able presence of mind he let out a warning yell. 

"'It's the police! Back! Back! Run back, and 
bolt the door behind you.' 

"It was an excellent hint; but instead of retreating, 
the girl continued to advance, followed by her long- 
faced brother in his knickerbocker suit, in which he had 
been singing comic songs for the entertainment of a 
joyless proletariat. She advanced not as if she had 
failed to understand — the word 'police' has an un- 
mistakable sound — but rather as if she could not help 
herself. She did not advance with the free gait and 
expanding presence of a distinguished amateur an- 
archist amongst poor, struggling professionals, but 
with slightly raised shoulders, and her elbows pressed 
close to her body, as if trying to shrink within herself. 
Her eyes were fixed immovably upon Sevrin. Sevrin 
the man, I fancy; not Sevrin the anarchist. But she 
advanced. And that was natural. For all their 



THE INFORMER US 

assumption of independence, girls of that class are 
used to the feeling of being specially protected, as, in 
fact, they are. This feeling accounts for nine tenths of 
their audacious gestures. Her face had gone com- 
pletely colourless. Ghastly ! Fancy having it brought 
home to her so brutally that she was the sort of person 
who must run away from the police! I believe she was 
pale with indignation, mostly, though there was, of 
course, also the concern for her intact personality, a 
vague dread of some sort of rudeness. And, naturally, 
she turned to a man, to the man on whom she had a 
claim of fascination and homage — the man who could 
not conceivably fail her at any juncture." 

"But," I cried, amazed at this analysis, "if it had 
been serious, real, I mean — as she thought it was — what 
could she expect him to do for her.f*" 

X. never moved a muscle of his face. 

"Goodness knows. I imagine that this charming, 
generous, and independent creature had never known in 
her life a single genuine thought; I mean a single 
thought detached from small human vanities, or whose 
source was not in some conventional perception. All I 
know is that after advancing a few steps she extended 
her hand toward the motionless Sevrin. And that at 
least was no gesture. It was a natural movement. As 
to what she expected him to do, who can tell? The 
impossible. But whatever she expected, it could not 
have come up, I am safe to say, to what he had made 



114 A SET OF SIX 

up his mind to do, even before that entreating hand 
had appealed to him so directly. It had not been neces- 
sary. From the moment he had seen her enter that 
cellar, he had made up his mind to sacrifice his future 
usefulness, to throw off the impenetrable, solidly fast- 
ened mask it had been his pride to wear " 

"What do you mean?" I interrupted, puzzled. 
"Was it Sevrin, then, who was " 

"He was. The most persistent, the most dangerous, 
the craftiest, the most systematic of informers. A gen- 
ius amongst betrayers. Fortunately for us, he was 
unique. The man was a fanatic, I have told you. 
Fortunately, again, for us, he had fallen in love with 
the accomplished and innocent gestures of that girl. 
An actor in desperate earnest himself, he must have 
believed in the absolute value of conventional signs. 
As to the grossness of the trap into which he fell, the 
explanation must be that two sentiments of such ab- 
sorbing magnitude cannot exist simultaneously in one 
heart. The danger of that other and unconscious 
comedian robbed him of his vision, of his perspicacity, 
of his judgment. Indeed, it did at first rob him of his 
self-possession. But he regained that through the 
necessity — as it appeared to him imperiously — to do 
something at once. To do what? Why, to get her 
out of the house as quickly as possible. He was des- 
perately anxious to do that. I have told you he was 
terrified. It could not be about himself. He had 



THE INFORMER 115 

been surprised and annoyed at a move quite unforeseen 
and premature. I may even say he had been furious. 
He was accustomed to arrange the last scene of his 
betrayals with a deep, subtle art which left his revolu- 
tionist reputation untouched. But it seems clear to 
me that at the same time he had resolved to make the 
best of it, to keep his mask resolutely on. It was only 
with the discovery of her being in the house that every- 
thing — the forced calm, the restraint of his fanaticism, 
the mask — all came off together in a kind of panic. 
Why panic, do you ask? The answer is very simple. 
He remembered — or, I daresay, he had never forgotten — 
the Professor alone at the top of the house, pursuing his 
researches, surrounded by tins upon tins of Stone's 
Dried Soup. There was enough in some few of them 
to bury us all where we stood under a heap of bricks. 
Sevrin, of course, was aware of that. And we must 
believe, also, that he knew the exact character of the 
man, apparently. He had gauged so many such char- 
acters! Or perhaps he only gave the Professor credit 
for what he himself was capable of. But, in any case, 
the effect was produced. And suddenly he raised his 
voice in authority. 

*"Get the lady away at once.' 

"It turned out that he was as hoarse as a crow; 
result, no doubt, of the intense emotion. It passed off 
in a moment. But these fateful words issued forth from 
his contracted throat in a discordant, ridiculous croak. 



116 A SET OF SIX 

They required no answer. The thing was done. How- 
ever, the man personating the inspector judged it ex- 
pedient to say roughly: 

"'She shall go soon enough, together with the rest of 
you.' 

"These were the last words belonging to the comedy 
part of this affair. 

"Oblivious of everything and everybody, Sevrin 
strode toward him and seized the lapels of his coat. 
Under his thin bluish cheeks one could see his jaws 
working with passion. 

" ' You have men posted outside. Get the lady taken 
home at once. Do you hear.'^ Now. Before you try 
to get hold of the man upstairs.' 

"*0h! There is a man upstairs,' scoffed the other, 
openly. 'Well, he shall be brought down in time to see 
the end of this.' 

"But Sevrin, beside himself, took no heed of the 
tone. 

"* Who's the imbecile meddler who sent you blunder- 
ing here.'* Didn't you understand your instructions.'' 
Don't you know anything.'* It's incredible ! Here ' 

"He dropped the lapels of the coat and, plunging 
his hand into his breast, jerked feverishly at some- 
thing under his shirt. At last he produced a small 
square pocket of soft leather, which must have been 
hanging like a scapulary from his neck by the tape, 
whose broken ends dangled from his fist. 



THE INFORMER 117 

"'Look inside,' he spluttered, flinging it in the other's 
face. And instantly he turned round toward the girl. 
She stood just behind him, perfectly still and silent. 
Her set, white face gave an illusion of placidity. Only 
her staring eyes seemed bigger and darker. 

"He spoke rapidly, with nervous assurance. I heard 
him distinctly promise her to make everything as clear 
as daylight presently. But that was all I caught. He 
stood close to her, never attempting to touch her even 
with the tip of his little finger — and she stared at him 
stupidly. For a moment, however, her eyelids de- 
scended slowly, pathetically, and then, with the long 
black eyelashes lying on her white cheeks, she looked 
as if she were about to fall down in a swoon. But she 
never even swayed where she stood. He urged her 
loudly to follow him at once, and walked toward the 
door at the bottom of the cellar stairs without looking 
behind him. And, as a matter of fact, she did move 
after him a pace or two. But, of course, he was not 
allowed to reach the door. There were angry exclama- 
tions, the tumult of a short, fierce scuflSe. Flung away 
violently, he came flying backward upon her, and fell. 
She threw out her arms in a gesture of dismay and 
stepped aside, just clear of his head, which struck the 
ground heavily near her shoe. 

"He grunted with the shock. By the time he had 
picked himself up, slowly, dazedly, he was awake to the 
reality of things. The man into whose hands he had 



118 A SET OF SIX 

thrust the leather case had extracted therefrom a nar- 
row strip of bluish paper. He held it up above his head, 
and, as after the scuffle an expectant uneasy stillness 
reigned once more, he threw it down disdainfully with 
the words, ' I think, comrades, that this proof was hardly 
necessary.' 

"Quick as thought, the girl stooped after the flutter- 
ing slip. Holding it spread out in both hands, she 
looked at it; then, without raising her eyes, opened her 
fingers slowly and let it fall. 

"I examined that curious document afterward. It 
was signed by a very high personage, and stamped and 
countersigned by other high officials in various coun- 
tries of Europe. In his trade — or shall I say, in his 
mission? — that sort of talisman might have been neces- 
sary, no doubt. Even to the police itself — all but the 
heads — he had been known only as Sevrin the noted 
anarchist. 

"He hung his head, biting his lower lip. A change 
had come over him, a sort of thoughtful, absorbed calm- 
ness. Nevertheless, he panted. His sides worked 
visibly, and his nostrils expanded and collapsed in weird 
contrast with his sombre aspect of a fanatical monk in a 
meditative attitude, but with something, too, in his face 
of an actor intent upon the terrible exigencies of his 
part. Before him Home declaimed, haggard and 
bearded, like an inspired denunciatory prophet from a 
wilderness. Two fanatics. They were made to under- 



THE INFORMER 119 

stand each other. Does this surprise you? I suppose 
you think that such people would be foaming at the 
mouth and snarling at each other?" 

I protested hastily that I was not surprised in the 
least; that I thought nothing of the kind; that anarchists 
in general were simply inconceivable to me mentally, 
morally, logically, sentimentally, and even physically. 
X. received this declaration with his usual woodenness 
and went on. 

"Home had burst out into eloquence. While pour- 
ing out scornful invective, he let tears escape from his 
eyes and roll down his black beard unheeded. Sevrin 
panted quicker and quicker. When he opened his mouth 
to speak, every one hung on his words. 

"'Don't be a fool. Home,' he began. *You know 
very well that I have done this for none of the reasons 
you are throwing at me.' And in a moment he became 
outwardly as steady as a rock under the other's lurid 
stare. *I have been thwarting, deceiving, and betray- 
ing you — from conviction.' 

"He turned his back on Home, and addressing the 
girl, repeated the words: 'From conviction.' 

"It's extraordinary how cold she looked. I suppose 
she could not think of an appropriate gesture. There 
can have been few precedents indeed for such a situa- 
tion. 

"'Clear as dayhght,' he added. 'Do you understand 
what that means? From conviction.' 



120 A SET OF SIX 

"And still she did not stir. She did not know 
what to do. But the luckless wretch was about to give 
her the opportunity for a beautiful and correct gesture. 

*"I have felt in me the power to make you share 
this conviction,' he protested, ardently. He had for- 
gotten himself; he made a step toward her — perhaps 
he stumbled. To me he seemed to be stooping low as 
if to touch the hem of her garment. And then the 
appropriate gesture came. She snatched her skirt 
away from his polluting contact and averted her head 
with an upward tilt. It was magnificently done, this 
gesture of conventionally unstained honour, of an un- 
blemished, high-minded amateur. 

"Nothing could have been better. And he seemed 
to think so, too, for once more he turned away. But 
this time he faced no one. He was again panting 
frightfully, while he fumbled hurriedly in his waistcoat 
pocket, and then raised his hand to his lips. There 
was something furtive in this movement, but directly 
afterward his bearing changed. His laboured breath- 
ing gave him a resemblance to a man who had just run 
a desperate race; but a curious air of detachment, of 
sudden and profound indifference, replaced the strain 
of the striving effort. The race was over. I did not 
want to see what would happen next. I was only too 
well aware. I tucked the young lady's arm under 
mine without a word, and made my way with her to 
the stairs. 



THE INFORMER 121 

"Her brother walked behind us. Halfway up the 
short flight she seemed unable to lift her feet high 
enough for the steps, and we had to pull and push to get 
her to the top. In the passage she dragged herself 
along, hanging on my arm, helplessly bent like an im- 
potent old woman. We issued into an empty street 
through a half-open door, staggering like besotted 
revellers. At the corner we stopped a four-wheeler, 
and the ancient driver looked round from his box 
with morose scorn at our efforts to get her in. Twice 
during the drive I felt her collapse on my shoulder in 
a half faint. Facing us, the youth in knickerbockers 
remained as mute as a fish, and, till he jumped out with 
the latch-key, sat more still than I would have behaved 
it possible. 

"At the door of their drawing-room she left my arm 
and walked in first, catching at the chairs and tables. 
She unpinned her hat; then, exhausted with the effort, 
her cloak still hanging from her shoulders, flung her- 
self into a deep armchair, sidew^ays, her face half 
buried in a cushion. The good brother appeared si- 
lently before her with a glass of water. She motioned 
it away. He drank it himself and walked off to a 
distant corner — behind the grand piano, somewhere. 
AU was still in this room where I had seen, for the first 
time, Sevrin, the anti-anarchist, captivated and spell- 
bound by the consummate and hereditary grimaces 
that in a certain sphere of life take the place of feelings 



122 A SET OF SIX 

with an excellent effect. I suppose her thoughts were 
busy with the same memory. Her shoulders shook 
violently. A pure attack of nerves. When it quieted 
down she affected firmness, 'What is done to a man of 
that sort.'' What will they do to him?' 

" ' Nothing. They can do nothing to him,' I assured 
her, with perfect truth. I was pretty certain he had 
died in less than twenty minutes from the moment his 
hand had gone to his lips. For if his fanatical anti- 
anarchism went even as far as carrying poison in his 
pocket, only to rob his adversaries of legitimate ven- 
geance, I knew he would take care to provide something 
that would not fail him when required. 

"She drew an angry breath. There were red spots 
on her cheeks and a feverish brilliance in her eyes. 

'"Has ever any one been exposed to such a terrible 
experience? To think that he had held my hand! 
That man!' Her face twitched, she gulped down a 
pathetic sob. 'If I ever felt sure of anything, it was 
of Sevrin's high-minded motives.' 

"Then she began to weep quietly, which was good 
for her. Then through her flood of tears, half resentful, 
'What was it he said to me.^* — "From conviction!" It 
seemed a vile mockery. What could he mean by it?' 

"'That, my dear young lady,' I said gently, 'is more 
than I or anybody else can ever explain to you.'" 

Mr. X. flicked a crumb off the front of his coat. 

"And that was strictly true as to her. Though 



THE INFORMER 12S 

Home, for instance, understood very well; and so did I, 
especially after we had been to Sevrin's lodging in a 
dismal back street of an intensely respectable quarter. 
Home was known there as a friend, and we had no 
difficulty in being admitted, the slatternly maid merely 
remarking, as she let us in, that 'Mr. Sevrin had not 
been home that night.' We forced open a couple of 
drawers in the way of duty, and found a little useful 
information. The most interesting part was his diary; 
for this man, engaged in such deadly work, had the 
weakness to keep a record of the most damnatory kind. 
There were his acts and also his thoughts laid bare to 
us. But the dead don't mind that. They don't mind 
anything. 

"'From conviction.' Yes. A vague but ardent 
humanitarianism had urged him in his first youth into 
the bitterest extremity of negation and revolt. After- 
ward his optimism flinched. He doubted and became 
lost. You have heard of converted atheists. These turn 
often into dangerous fanatics, but the soul remains the 
same. After he had got acquainted with the girl, there 
are to be met in that diary of his very queer politico- 
amorous rhapsodies. He took her sovereign grimaces 
with deadly seriousness. He longed to convert her. 
But all this cannot interest you. For the rest, I don't 
know if you remember — it is a good many years ago 
now — the journalistic sensation of the 'Hermione Street 
Mystery'; the finding of a man's body in the cellar of 



124 A SET OF SIX 

an empty house; the inquest; some arrests; many sur- 
mises — then silence — the usual end for many obscure 
martyrs and confessors. The fact is, he was not enough 
of an optimist. You must be a savage, tyrannical, 
pitiless, thick-and-thin optimist, like Home, for in- 
stance, to make a good social rebel of the extreme 
type." 

He rose from the table. A waiter hurried up with 
his overcoat; another held his hat in readiness. 

"But what became of the young lady?" I asked. 

"Do you really want to know.f^" he said, buttoning 
himself in his fur coat carefully. "I confess to the 
small malice of sending her Sevrin's diary. She went 
into retirement; then she went to Florence; and then 
she went into retreat in a convent. I can't tell you 
where she will go next. What does it matter? Ges- 
tures! Gestures! Mere gestures of her class." 

He fitted on his glossy high hat with extreme pre- 
cision, and casting a rapid glance round the room, full 
of well-dressed people, innocently dining, muttered be- 
tween his teeth: 

"And nothing else! That is why their kind is fated 
to perish." 

I never met Mr. X. again after that evening. I took 
to dining at my club. On my next visit to Paris I 
found my friend all impatience to hear of the effect 
produced on me by this rare item of his collection. I 



THE INFORMER 125 

told him all the story, and he beamed on me with the 
pride of his distinguished specimen. 

"Isn't X. well worth knowing?" he bubbled over 
in great delight. "He's unique, amazing, absolutely 
terrific." 

His enthusiasm grated upon my finer feelings. I 
told him curtly that the man's cynicism was simply 
abominable. 

"Oh, abominable! abominable!" assented my friend 
effusively. "And then, you know, he likes to have his 
little joke sometimes," he added in a confidential tone. 

I fail to understand the connection of this last re- 
mark. I have been utterly unable to discover where in 
all this the joke comes in. 



AN INDIGNANT TALE 



THE BRUTE 

DODGING in from the rain-swept street, I ex- 
changed a smile and a glance with Miss Blank 
in the bar of the Tliree Crows. This exchange 
was effected with extreme propriety. It is a shock to 
think that, if still alive. Miss Blank must be something 
over sixty now. How time passes ! 

Noticing my gaze directed inquiringly at the parti- 
tion of glass and varnished wood, Miss Blank was good 
enough to say, encouragingly: 

"Only Mr. Jermyn and Mr. Stonor in the parlour, 
with another gentleman I've never seen before.'* 

I moved toward the parlour door. A voice dis- 
coursing on the other side (it was but a matchboard 
partition) rose so loudly that the concluding words 
became quite plain in all their atrocity. 

"That fellow Wilmot fairly dashed her brains out, 
and a good job, too!" 

This inhuman sentiment, since there was nothing 
profane or improper in it, failed to do as much as to 
check the slight yawn Miss Blank was achieving behind 
her hand. And she remained gazing fixedly at the 
window-panes, which streamed with rain. 

129 



130 A SET OF SIX 

As I opened the parlour door the same voice went on 
in the same cruel strain: 

"I was glad when I heard she got the knock from 
somebody at last. Sorry enough for poor Wilmot, 
though. That man and I used to be chums at one time. 
Of course that was the end of him. A clear case if there 
ever was one. No way out of it. None at all." 

The voice belonged to the gentleman Miss Blank had 
never seen before. He straddled his long legs on the 
Iiearthrug. Jermyn, leaning forward, held his pocket- 
1 andkerchief spread out before the grate. He looked 
back dismally over his shoulder, and as I slipped behind 
one of the little wooden tables, I nodded to him. On 
the other side of the fire, imposingly calm and large, 
sat Mr. Stonor, jammed tight into a capacious Windsor 
armchair. There was nothing small about him but 
his short, white side-whiskers. Yards and yards of 
extra superfine blue cloth (made up into an overcoat) 
reposed on a chair by his side. And he must just have 
brought some liner from sea, because another chair was 
smothered under his black waterproof, ample as a 
pall, and made of threefold oiled silk, double-stitched 
throughout. A man's hand-bag of the usual size looked 
like a child's toy on the floor near his feet. 

I did not nod to him. He was too big to be nodded 
to in that parlour. He was a senior Trinity pilot and 
condescended to take his turn in the cutter only during 
the summer months. He had been many times in 



THE BRUTE 131 

charge of royal yachts in and out of Port Victoria. 
Besides, it's no use nodding to a monument. And he 
was Hke one. He didn't speak, he didn't budge. He 
just sat there, holding his handsome old head up, im- 
movable, and almost bigger than life. It was extremely 
fine. ]Mr. Stonor's presence reduced poor old Jermyn 
to a mere shabby wisp of a man, and made the talk- 
ative stranger in tweeds on the hearthrug look absurdly 
boj^ish. This last must have been a few years over 
thirty, and was certainly not the sort of individual that 
gets abashed at the sound of his own voice, because 
gathering me in, as it were, by a friendly glance, he kept 
it going without a check. 

"I was glad of it," he repeated emphatically. "You 
may be surprised at it, but then you haven't gone 
through the experience I've had of her. I can tell you, 
it was something to remember. Of course I got off 
scot free myself — as you can see. She did her best to 
break up my pluck for me though. She jolly near 
drove as fine a fellow as ever lived into a madhouse. 
What do you say to that — eh.?" 

Not an eyelid twitched in IVIr. Stonor's enormous face. 
Monumental! The speaker looked straight into my 
eyes. 

"It used to make me sick to think of her going about 
the world murdering people." 

Jermyn approached the handkerchief a little nearer 
to the grate and groaned. It was simply a habit he had. 



132 A SET OF SIX 

"I've seen her once," he declared, with mournful ia- 
difference. " She had a house " 

The stranger in tweeds ttuned to stare down at him 
surprised. 

"She had three houses," he corrected authoritatively. 
But Jermyn was not to be contradicted. 

"She had a house, I say," he repeated, with dismal 
obstinacy. "A great, big, ugly, white thing. You 
could see it from miles away — sticking up." 

"So you could," assented the other readily. "It 
was old Colchester's notion, though he was always 
threatening to give her up. He couldn't stand her 
racket any more, he declared ; it was too much of a good 
thing for him; he would wash his hands of her, if he 
never got hold of another — and so on. I daresay he 
would have chucked her, only — it may surprise you — 
his missus wouldn't hear of it. Funny, eh? But 
with women, you never know how they will take a thing, 
and Mrs. Colchester, with her moustaches and big eye- 
brows, set up for being as strong-minded as they make 
them. She used to walk about in a brown silk dress, 
with a great gold cable flopping about her bosom. You 
should have heard her snapping out: 'Rubbish!' or 
'Stuff and nonsense!' I daresay she knew when she 
was well off. They had no children, and had never set 
up a home anywhere. WTien in England she just made 
shift to hang out anyhow in some cheap hotel or board- 
ing-house. I daresay she liked to get back to the com- 



THE BRUTE ISS 

forts she was used to. She knew very well she couldn't 
gain by any change. And, moreover, Colchester, though 
a first-rate man, was not what you may call in his first 
youth, and, perhaps, she may have thought that he 
wouldn't be able to get hold of another (as he used to 
say) so easily. Anyhow, for one reason or another, it 
was 'Rubbish' and 'Stuff and nonsense' for the good 
lady. I overheard once young Mr. Apse himself say to 
her confidentially : ' I assure you, Mrs. Colchester, I am 
beginning to feel quite unhappy about the name she's 
getting for herself.' *0h,' says she, with her deep little 
hoarse laugh, 'if one took notice of all the silly talk,* 
and she showed Apse all her ugly false teeth at once. 
'It would take more than that to make me lose my 
confidence in her, I assure you,' says she." 

At this point, without any change of facial expression, 
IMr. Stonor emitted a short sardonic laugh. It was 
very impressive, but I didn't see the fun. I looked 
from one to another. The stranger on the hearthrug 
had an ugly smile. 

"And jNIr. Apse shook both Mrs. Colchester's hands, 
he was so pleased to hear a good word said for their 
favourite. All these Apses, young and old, you know, 
were perfectly infatuated with that abominable, dan- 
gerous " 

"I beg your pardon," I interrupted, exasperated, for 
he seemed to be addressing himself exclusively to me, 
"but who on earth have you been talking about?" 



134 A SET OF SIX 

"I am talking of the Apse family," he answered, 
courteously. 

I nearly let out a damn at this. But just then the 
respected Miss Blank put her head in, and said that the 
cab was at the door, if Mr. Stonor wanted to catch the 
eleven-three up. 

At once the senior pilot arose in his mighty bulk and 
began to struggle into his coat, with awe-inspiring up- 
heavals. The stranger and I hurried impulsively to his 
assistance, and directly we laid our hands on him he 
became perfectly quiescent. We had to raise our arms 
very high, and to make efforts. It was like caparison- 
ing a docile elephant. With a "Thanks, gentlemen," 
he dived under and squeezed himself through the door 
in a great hurry. 

We smiled at each other in a friendly way. 

"I wonder how he manages to hoist himself up a 
ship's side-ladder," said the man in tweeds; and poor 
Jermyn, who was a mere North Sea pilot, without 
official status or recognition of any sort, pilot only by 
courtesy, groaned. 

"He makes eight hundred a year." 

"Are you a sailor .f*" I asked the stranger, who had 
gone back to his position on the rug. 

"I used to be till a couple of years ago, when I got 
married," answered this communicative individual. "I 
even went to sea first in that very ship we were speak- 
ing of when you came in." 



THE BRUTE 135 

"What ship?" I asked, puzzled. "I never heard you 
mention a ship." 

"I've just told you her name, my dear sir," he 
replied. "The A-pse Family. Surely you've heard of 
the great firm of Apse & Sons, shipowners. They had a 
pretty big fleet. There was the Lucy Apse, and the 
Harold Apse, and Anne, John, Malcolm, Clara, Juliet, 
and so on — no end of Apses. Every brother, sister, 
aunt, cousin, wife — and grandmother, too, for all I 
know — of the firm had a ship named after them. Good, 
solid, old-fashioned craft they were, too, built to carry 
and to last. None of your new-fangled, labour-saving 
appliances in them, but plenty of men and plenty of 
good salt beef and hard tack put aboard — and off you 
go to fight your way out and home again." 

The miserable Jermyn made a sound of approval, 
which sounded like a groan of pain. Those were the 
ships for him. He pointed out in doleful tones that 
you couldn't say to labour-saving appliances: "Jump 
Hvely now, my hearties." No labour-saving appliance 
would go aloft on a dirty night with the sands under 
your lee. 

"No," asserted the stranger, with a wink at me. 
"The Apses didn't believe in them, either, apparently. 
They treated their people well — as people don't get 
treated nowadays — and they were awfully proud of their 
ships. Nothing ever happened to them. This last 
one, the Apse Family, was to be like the others, only 



136 A SET OF SIX 

she was to be still stronger, still safer, still more roomy 
and comfortable. I believe they meant her to last for- 
ever. They had her built composite — iron, teak-wood, 
and greenheart, and her scantling was something 
fabulous. If ever an order was given for a ship in a 
spirit of pride this one was. Everything of the best. 
The commodore captain of the employ was to con;- 
mand her, and they planned the accommodation for 
him like a house on shore under a big, tall poop that 
went nearly to the mainmast. No wonder Mrs. Col- 
chester wouldn't let the old man give her up. Wliy, it 
was the best home she ever had in all her married days. 
She had a nerve, that woman. 

"The fuss that was made while that ship was build- 
ing! Let's have this a Httle stronger, and that a little 
heavier; and hadn't that other thing better be changed 
for something a little thicker. The builders entered 
into the spirit of the game, and there she was, growing 
into the clumsiest, heaviest ship of her size right before 
all their eyes, without anybody getting aware of it 
somehow. She was to be 2,000 tons register, or a little 
over; no less on any account. But see what happens. 
When they come to measure her she turned out 1,999 
tons and a fraction. General consternation! And they 
say old Mr. Apse was so annoyed, when they told him, 
that he took to his bed and died. The old gentleman 
had retired from the firm twenty-five years before, and 
was ninety-six years old if a day, so his death wasn't, per- 



THE BRUTE 137 

haps, so surprising. Still Mr. Lucian Apse was con- 
vinced that his father would have lived to a hundred. 
So we may put him at the head of the list. Next 
comes the poor devil of a shipwright that brute caught 
and squashed as she went off the ways. They called 
it the launch of a ship, but I've heard people say that, 
from the wailing and yelling and scrambling out of the 
way, it was more like letting the devil loose upon the 
river. She snapped all her checks like pack-thread, and 
went for the tugs in attendance like a fury. Before 
anybody could see what she was up to she sent one of 
them to the bottom, and laid up another for three 
months' repairs. One of her cables parted, and then, 
suddenly — you couldn't tell why — she let herself be 
brought up with the other as quiet as a lamb. 

"That's how she was. You could never be sure 
what she would be up to next. There are ships difficult 
to handle, but generally you can depend on them be- 
having rationally. With that ship, whatever you did 
with her you never knew how it would end. She was a 
wicked beast. Or, perhaps, she was only just insane." 

He uttered this supposition in so earnest a tone that 
I could not refrain from smiling. He left off biting his 
lower lip to apostrophize me. 

"Eh! Why not.'' Why couldn't there be something 
in her build, in the lines corresponding to — what's 
madness? Only something just a tiny bit wrong in the 
make of vour brain. Whv shouldn't there be a mad 



138 A SET OF SIX 

ship — I mean mad in a ship-like way, so that under no 
circumstances could you be sure she would do what any 
other sensible ship would naturally do for you. There 
are ships that steer wildly, and ships that can't be quite 
trusted always to stay; others want careful watching 
when running in a gale; and again, there may be a 
ship that will make heavy weather of it in every httle 
blow. But then you expect her to be always so. 
You take it as part of her character, as a ship, just 
as you take account of a man's peculiarities of temper 
when you deal with him. But with her you couldn't. 
She was unaccountable. If she wasn't mad, then she 
was the most evil-minded, underhand, savage brute 
that ever went afloat. I've seen her run in a heavy 
gale beautifully for two days, and on the third broach 
to twice in the same afternoon. The first time she 
flung the helmsman clean over the wheel, but as she 
didn't quite manage to kill him she had another try 
about three hours afterward. She swamped herself 
fore and aft, burst all the canvas we had set, scared all 
hands into a panic, and even frightened Mrs. Col- 
chester down there in these beautiful stern cabins that 
she was so proud of. When we mustered the crew 
there was one man missing. Swept overboard, of 
course, without being either seen or heard, poor devil! 
and I only wonder more of us didn't go. 

"Always something like that. Always. I heard an 
old mate tell Captain Colchester once that it had come 



THE BRUTE 139 

to this with him, that he was afraid to open his mouth 
to give any sort of order. She was as much of a terror 
in harbour as at sea. You could never be certain what 
would hold her. On the slightest provocation she 
would start snapping ropes, cables, wire hawsers, like 
carrots. She was heavy, clumsy, unhandy — but that 
does not quite explain that power for mischief she had. 
You know, somehow, when I think of her I can't help 
remembering what we hear of incurable lunatics break- 
ing loose now and then." 

He looked at me inquisitively. But, of course, I 
couldn't admit that a ship could be mad. 

"In the ports where she was known," he went on, 
"they dreaded the sight of her. She thought nothing 
of knocking away twenty feet or so of solid stone facing 
ofif a quay or wiping off the end of a wooden wharf. She 
must have lost miles of chain and hundreds of tons of 
anchors in her time. "WTien she fell aboard some poor 
unoffending ship it was the very devil of a job to haul 
her off again. And she never got hurt herself — just a 
few scratches or so, perhaps. They had wanted to 
have her strong. And so she was. Strong enough to 
ram Polar ice with. And as she began so she went on. 
From the day she was launched she never let a year pass 
without murdering somebody. I think the owners got 
very worried about it. But they were a stiff-necked 
generation, all these Apses; they wouldn't admit there 
could be anything wrong with the Apse Family. They 



140 A SET OF SIX 

wouldn't even change her name. 'Stuff and non- 
sense,' as Mrs. Colchester used to say. They ought 
at least to have shut her up for life in some dry dock or 
other, away up the river, and never let her smell salt 
water again. I assure you, my dear sir, that she in- 
variably did kill some one every voyage she made. It 
was perfectly well known. She got a name for it, far 
and wide." 

I expressed my surprise that a ship with such a 
deadly reputation could ever get a crew. 

"Then, you don't know what sailors are, my dear sir. 
Let me just show you by an instance. One day in dock 
at home, while loafing on the forecastle head, I noticed 
two respectable salts come along, one a middle-aged, 
competent, steady man, evidently, the other a smart, 
youngish chap. They read the name on the bows and 
stopped to look at her. Says the elder man: 'Apse 
Faviily. That's the sanguinary female dog' (I'm 
putting it in that way) 'of a ship. Jack, that kills a man 
every voyage. I wouldn't sign in her — not for Joe, I 
wouldn't.' And the other says: 'If she were mine, I'd 
have her towed on the mud and set on fire, blamme if I 
wouldn't.' Then the first man chimes in: 'Much do 
they care! Men are cheap, God knows.' The younger 
one spat in the water alongside. 'They won't have me 
— not for double wages.' 

"They hung about for some time and then walked up 
the dock. HaK an hour later I saw them both on our 



THE BRUTE 141 

deck looking for the mate, and apparently very anxious 
to be taken on. And they were." 

"How do you account for this.^" I asked. 

""NATiat would you say.^" he retorted. "Reckless- 
ness! The vanity of boasting in the evening to all their 
chums: 'We've just shipped in that there Apse Family. 
Blow her. She ain't going to scare us.' Sheer sailor- 
like perversity ! A sort of curiosity. Well — a little of all 
that, no doubt. I put the question to them in the course 
of the voyage. The answer of the elderly chap was: 

"'A man can die but once.' The younger assured 
me in a mocking tone that he wanted to see *how she 
would do it this time.' But I tell you what: there was 
a sort of fascination about the brute." 

Jermyn, who seemed to have seen every ship in the 
world, broke in sulkily: 

"I saw her once out of this very window towing up 
the river; a great black ugly thing, going along like a 
big hearse." 

"Something sinister about her looks, wasn't there.''" 
said the man in tweeds, looking down at old Jermyn 
with a friendly eye. "I always had a sort of horror of 
her. She gave me a beastly shock when I was no more 
than fourteen, the very first day — nay, hour — I joined 
her. Father came up to see me off, and was to go down 
to Gravesend with us. I was his second boy to go to 
sea. My big brother was already an officer then. We 
got on board about eleven in the morning, and found 



142 A SET OF SIX 

the ship ready to drop out of the basm, stern first. She 
had not moved three times her own length when, at 
a little pluck the tug gave her to enter the dock gates, 
she made one of her rampaging starts, and put such 
a weight on the check rope — a new six-inch hawser 
— that forward there they had no chance to ease it 
round in time, and it parted. I saw the broken end 
fly up high in the air, and the next moment that brute 
brought her quarter against the pier-head with a jar 
that staggered everybody about her decks. She didn't 
hurt herself. Not she! But one of the boys the mate 
liad sent aloft on the mizzen to do something came 
down on the poop-deck — thump — right in front of me. 
He was not much older than myself. We had been 
grinning at each other only a few minutes before. He 
must have been handling himself carelessly, not expect- 
ing to get such a jerk. I heard his startled cry — Oh! — 
in a high treble as he felt himself going, and looked up 
in time to see him go limp all over as he fell. Ough! 
Poor father was remarkably white about the gills when 
we shook hands in Gravesend. *Are you all right?' he 
says, looking hard at me. 'Yes, father.' 'Quite sure.''* 
' Yes, father.' ' Well, then, good-bye, my boy.' He told 
me afterward that for half a word he would have car- 
ried me off home with him there and then. I am the 
baby of the family — you know," added the man in 
tweeds, stroking his moustache with an ingenuous 
smile. 



THE BRUTE 143 

I acknowledged this interesting communication 
by a sympathetic murmur. He waved his hand care- 
lessly. 

"This might have utterly spoiled a chap's nerve for 
going aloft, you know — utterly. He fell within two feet 
of me, cracking his head on a mooring-bitt. Never 
moved. Stone dead. Nice-looking little fellow he was. 
I had just been thinking we would be great chums. 
However, that wasn't yet the worst that brute of a ship 
could do. I served in her three years of my time, and 
then I got transferred to the Lucy Apse for a year. The 
sailmaker we had in the A]}se Family turned up there, 
too, and I remember him saying to me one evening, 
after we had been a week at sea: 'Isn't she a meek little 
ship.?' No wonder we thought the Luq/ Apse a dear, 
meek, little ship after getting clear of that big, rampag- 
ing, savage brute. It was like heaven. Her officers 
seemed to me the restfullest lot of men on earth. To 
me who had knowTi no ship but the Apse Family, the 
Lucy was like a sort of magic craft that did what you 
wanted her to do of her own accord. One evening we 
got caught aback pretty sharply from right ahead. In 
about ten minutes we had her full again, sheets aft, 
tacks down, decks cleared, and the officer of the watch 
leaning against the weather rail peacefully. It seemed 
simply marvellous to me. The other would have stuck 
for half an hour in irons, rolling her decks full of water, 
knocking the men about — spars cracking, braces snap- 



144 A SET OF SIX 

ping, yards taking charge, and a confounded scare 
going on aft because of her beastly rudder, which she 
had a way of flapping about fit to raise your hair on 
end. I couldn't get over my wonder for days. 

"Well, I finished my last year of apprenticeship in 
that jolly little ship — she wasn't so little, either, but 
after that other heavy devil she seemed but a plaything 
to handle. I finished my time and passed; and then, 
just as I was thinking of having three weeks of real 
good time on shore, I got at breakfast a letter asking me 
the earliest day I could be ready to join the Apse Family 
as third mate. I gave my plate a shove that shot it 
into the middle of the table; dad looked up over his 
paper; mother raised her hands in astonishment, and 
I went out bareheaded into our bit of garden, where I 
walked round and round for an hour. 

" When I came in again mother was out of the dining- 
room, and dad had shifted berth into his big armchair. 
The letter was lying on the mantelpiece. 

"Tt's very creditable to you to get the offer, and 
very kind of them to make it,' he said. 'And I see also 
that Charles has been appointed chief mate of that 
ship for one voyage.' 

"There was over leaf a PS. to that effect in Mr. 
Apse's own handwriting, which I had overlooked. 
Charley was my big brother. 

"'I don't like very much to have two of my boys 
together in one ship,' father goes on, in his dehberate, 



THE BRUTE 145 

solemn way. 'And I may tell you that I would not 
mind writing ]Mr. Apse a letter to that effect.' 

"Dear old dad! He was a wonderful father. What 
would you have done? The mere notion of going 
back (and as an officer, too), to be worried and bothered, 
and kept on the jump night and day by that brute, 
made me feel sick. But she wasn't a ship you could 
afford to fight shy of. Besides, the most genuine ex- 
cuse could not be given without mortally offending 
Apse & Sons. The firm, and I beheve the whole family 
down to the old unmarried aunts in Lancashire, had 
grown desperately touchy about that accursed ship's 
character. This was the case for answering 'Ready 
now' from your very death-bed if you wished to die 
in their good graces. And that's precisely what I did 
answer — by wire, to have it over and done with at once. 

"The prospect of being shipmates with my big 
brother cheered me up considerably, though it made 
me a bit anxious, too. Ever since I remember myself 
as a little chap he had been very good to me, and I 
looked upon him as the finest fellow in the world. And 
so he was. No better officer ever walked the deck of a 
merchant ship. And that's a fact. He was a fine, strong, 
upstanding, sun-tanned young fellow, with his brown 
hair curling a little, and an eye like a hawk. He was 
just splendid. We hadn't seen each other for many 
years, and even this time, though he had been in Eng- 
land three weeks already, he hadn't showed up at home 



146 A SET OF SIX 

yet, but had spent his spare time in Surrey somewhere, 
making up to Maggie Colchester, old Captain Colchester's 
niece. Her father, a great friend of dad's, was in the 
sugar-broking business, and Charley made a sort of 
second home of their house. I wondered what my big 
brother would think of me. There was a sort of stern- 
ness about Charley's face which never left it, not even 
when he was larking in his rather wild fashion. 

"He received me with a great shout of laughter. 
He seemed to think my joining as an officer the greatest 
joke in the world. There was a difference of ten years 
between us, and I suppose he remembered me best in 
pinafores. I was a kid of four when he first went to 
sea. It surprised me to find how boisterous he could 
be. 

*"Now we shall see what you are made of,' he cried. 
And he held me off by the shoulders, and punched my 
ribs, and hustled me into his berth. 'Sit down, Ned. I 
am glad of the chance of having you with me. I'll put 
the finishing touch to you, my young officer, providing 
you're worth the trouble. And, first of all, get it well 
into your head that we are not going to let this brute 
kill anybody this voyage. We'll stop her racket.' 

"I perceived he was in dead earnest about it. He 
talked grimly of the ship, and how we must be careful 
and never allow this ugly beast to catch us napping with 
any of her damned tricks. 

"He gave me a regular lecture on special seamanship 



THE BRUTE 147 

for the use of the Apse Family; then, changing his tone, 
he began to talk at large, rattling off the wildest, funni- 
est nonsense, till my sides ached with laughing. I could 
see very well he was a bit above himself with high 
spirits. It couldn't be because of my coming. Not to 
that extent. But, of course, I wouldn't have dreamt of 
asking what was the matter. I had a proper respect 
for my big brother, I can tell you. But it was all made 
plain enough a day or two afterward, when I heard 
that Miss Maggie Colchester was coming for the voy- 
age. Uncle was giving her a sea-trip for the benefit 
of her health. 

"I don't know what could have been wrong with her 
health. She had a beautiful colour, and a deuce of a 
lot of fair hair. She didn't care a rap for wind, or rain, 
or spray, or sun, or green seas, or anything. She was a 
blue-eyed, jolly girl of the very best sort, but the way 
she cheeked my big brother used to frighten me. I 
always expected it to end in an awful row. However, 
nothing decisive happened till after we had been in 
Sydney for a week. One day, in the men's dinner 
hour, Charley sticks his head into my cabin. I was 
stretched out on my back on the settee, smoking in 
peace. 

" 'Come ashore with me, Ned,' he says, in his curt way. 

"I jumped up, of course, and away after him down 
the gangway and up George Street. He strode along 
like a giant, and I at his elbow, panting. It was con- 



148 A SET OF SIX 

foiindedly hot. 'Wliere on earth are you rushing me 
to, Charley?' I made bold to ask. 

"'Here/ he says. 

"'Here' was a jeweller's shop. I couldn't imagine 
what he could want there. It seemed a sort of mad 
freak. He thrust under my nose three rings, which 
looked very tiny on his big, brown palm, growling out — 

'"For Maggie! Which.?' 

"I got a kind of scare at this. I couldn't make a 
sound, but I pointed at the one that sparkled white and 
blue. He put it in his waistcoat pocket, paid for it with 
a lot of sovereigns, and bolted out. When we got on 
board I was quite out of breath. 'Shake hands, old 
chap,' I gasped out. He gave me a thump on the back. 
'Give what orders you lil^e to the boatswain when 
the hands turn-to,' says he; 'I am off duty this after- 
noon.' 

"Then he vanished from the deck for a while, but 
presently he came out of the cabin with Maggie, and 
these two went over the gangway publicly, before all 
hands, going for a walk together on that awful, blazing, 
hot day, with clouds of dust flying about. They came 
back after a few hours looking very staid, but didn't 
seem to have the slightest idea where they had been. 
Anyway, that's the answer they both made to Mrs. 
Colchester's question at tea-time. 

"And didn't she turn on Charley, with her voice 
like an old night r-nbman's. 'Evibb''r.h. Don't know 



THE BRUTE 149 

where you've been! Stuff and nonsense. You've 
walked the girl off her legs. Don't do it again.' 

"It's surprising how meek Charley could be with 
that old woman. Only on one occasion he whispered 
to me, ' I'm jolly glad she isn't Maggie's aunt, except by 
marriage. That's no sort of relationship.' But I 
think he let Maggie have too much of her own way. 
She was hopping all over that ship in her yachting sldrt 
and a red tam o' shanter like a bright bird on a dead 
black tree. The old salts used to grin to themselves 
when they saw her coming along, and offered to teach 
her knots or splices. I believe she liked the men, for 
Charley's sake, I suppose. 

"As you may imagine, the diabolic propensities of 
that cursed ship were never spoken of on board. Not 
in the cabin, at any rate. Only once on the homeward 
passage Charley said, incautiously, something about 
bringing all her crew home this time. Captain Col- 
chester began to look uncomfortable at once, and that 
silly, hard-bitten old woman flew out at Charley as 
though he had said something indecent. I was quite 
confounded myseff; as to Maggie, she sat completely 
mystified, opening her blue eyes very wide. Of course, 
before she was a day older she wormed it all out of me. 
She was a very difficult person to lie to. 

"*How awful,' she said, quite solemn. 'So many 
poor fellows. I am glad the voyage is nearly over. I 
won't have a moment's peace about Charley now.' 



150 A SET OF SIX 

"I assured her Charley was all right. It took more 
than that ship knew to get over a seaman like Charley. 
And she agreed with me. 

"Next day we got the tug off Dungeness; and when the 
tow-rope was fast Charley rubbed his hands and said 
to me in an undertone: 

"* We've baffled her, Neddy.' 

"'Looks like it,' I said, with a grin at him. It was 
beautiful weather, and the sea as smooth as a millpond. 
We went up the river without a shadow of trouble 
except once, when off Hole Haven, the brute took a 
sudden sheer and nearly had a barge anchored just 
clear of the fairway. But I was aft, looking after the 
steering, and she did not catch me napping that time. 
Charley came up on the poop, looking very concerned. 
'Close shav^e.' says he. 

"'Nevtr mind, Charley,' I answered, cheerily. 
'You've tamed her.' 

*'We were to tow right up to the dock. The river 
pilot boarded us below Gravesend, and the first words 
I heard him say were : ' You may just as well take your 
port anchor inboard at once, Mr. Mate.' 

"This had been done when I went forward. I saw 
Maggie on the forecastle head enjoying the bustle, 
and I begged her to go aft, but she took no notice of me, 
of course. Then Charley, who was very busy with the 
head gear, caught sight of her and shouted in his big- 
gest voice: 'Get off the forecastle head, Maggie. You're 



THE BRUTE 151 

in the way here.' For all answer she made a funny 
face at him, and I saw poor Charley turn away, hiding 
a smile. She was flushed with the excitement of 
getting home again, and her blue eyes seemed to snap 
electric sparks as she looked at the river. A collier 
brig had gone round just ahead of us, and our tug had 
to stop her engines in a hurry to avoid running slap 
bang into her. 

*' In a moment, as is usually the case, all the shipping 
in the reach seemed to get into a hopeless tangle. A 
schooner and a ketch got up a small collision all to 
themselves right in the middle of the river. It was 
exciting to watch, and, meantime, our tug remained 
stopped. Any other ship than that brute could have 
been coaxed to keep straight for a couple of minutes — 
but not she! Her head fell off at once, and she began 
to drift down, taking her tug along with her. I noticed 
a cluster of coasters at anchor within a quarter of a 
mile of us, and I thought I had better speak to the 
pUot. *If you let her get amongst that lot,' I said, 
quietly, 'she will grind some of them to bits before we 
get her out again.' 

"'Don't I know her!' cries he, stamping his foot 
in a perfect fury. And he out with his whistle to 
make that bothered tug get the ship's head up again 
as quick as possible. He blew hke mad, waving his 
arm to port, and presently we could see that the tug's 
engines had been set going ahead. Her paddles 



152 A SET OF SIX 

churned the water, but it was as if she had been trying 
to tow a rock — she couldn't get an inch out of that ship. 
Again the pilot blew his whistle, and waved his arm to 
port. We could see the tug's paddles turning faster and 
faster away, broad on our bow. 

"For a moment tug and ship hung motionless in a 
crowd of moving shipping, and then the terrific strain 
that evil, stony-hearted brute would always put on 
everything tore the towing-chock clean out. The 
tow-rope surged over, snapping the iron stanchions of 
the head-rail one after another as if they had been 
sticks of sealing-wax. It was only then I noticed that 
in order to have a better view over our heads Maggie 
had stepped upon the port anchor as it lay flat on the 
forecastle deck. 

"It had been lowered properly into its hardwood 
beds, but there had been no time to take a turn with 
it. Anyway, it was quite secure as it was, for going 
into dock; but I could see directly that the tow-rope 
would sweep under the fluke in another second. My 
heart flew right into my throat, but not before I had 
time to yell out: 'Jump clear of that anchor!' 

"But I hadn't time to shriek out her name. I don't 
suppose she heard me at all. The first touch of the 
hawser against the fluke threw her down; she was up 
on her feet again quick as lightning, but she was up on 
the wrong side. I heard a horrid, scraping sound, and 
then that anchor, tipping over, rose up like something 



THE BRUTE 153 

alive; its great, rough iron arm caught Maggie round 
the waist, seemed to clasp her close with a dreadful 
hug, and flung itself with her over and down in a 
terrific clang of iron, followed by heavy ringing blows 
that shook the ship from stem to stern — because the 
ring stopper held!" 

"How horrible!" I exclaimed. 

"I used to dream for years afterward of anchors 
catching hold of girls," said the man in tweeds, a little 
wildly. He shuddered. "With a most pitiful howl 
Charley was over after her almost on the instant. But, 
Lord! he didn't see as much as a gleam of her red tarn 
o' shanter in the water. Nothing! nothing whatever! 
In a moment there were half a dozen boats around us, 
and he got pulled into one. I, with the boatswain and 
the carpenter, let go the other anchor in a hurry and 
brought the ship up somehow. The pilot had gone 
silly. He walked up and down the forecastle head 
wringing his hands and nmttering to himself: 'Killing 
women, now! Killing women, now!' Not another 
word could you get out of him. 

"Dusk fell, then a night black as pitch; and peering 
upon the river I heard a low, moiu-nful hail, 'Ship, 
ahoy!' Two Gravesend watermen came alongside. 
They had a lantern in their wherry, and looked up the 
ship's side, holding on to the ladder without a word. I 
saw in the patch of light a lot of loose fair hair down 
there." 



154 A SET OF SIX 

He shuddered again. 

"After the tide turned poor Maggie's body had 
floated clear of one of them big mooring buoys,'* he 
explained. "I crept aft, feeling half dead, and managed 
to send a rocket up — to let the other searchers know 
on the river. And then I slunk away forward like 
a cur, and spent the night sitting on the heel of the 
bowsprit so as to be as far as possible out of Charley's 
way." 

"Poor fellow!" I murmured. 

"Yes. Poor fellow," he repeated musingly. "That 
brute wouldn't let him — not even him — cheat her of 
her prey. But he made her fast in dock next morning. 
He did. We hadn't exchanged a word — not a single 
look for that matter. I didn't want to look at him. 
When the last rope was fast he put his hands to his 
head and stood gazing down at his feet as if trying to 
remember something. The men waited on the main 
deck for the words that end the voyage. Perhaps that 
is what he was trying to remember. I spoke for him. 
'That'll do, men.' 

"I never saw a crew leave a ship so quietly. They 
sneaked over the rail one after another, taking care 
not to bang their sea chests too heavily. They looked 
our way, but not one had the stomach to come up and 
offer to shake hands with the mate, as is usual. 

"I followed him all over the empty ship to and fro, 
here and there, with no Uving soul about but the two of 



THE BRUTE 156 

us, because the old ship-keeper had locked himself up 
in the galley — both doors. Suddenly poor Charley 
mutters, in a crazy voice: 'I'm done here,' and strides 
down the gangway with me at his heels, up the dock, 
out at the gate, on toward Tower Hill. He used to 
take rooms with a decent old landlady in America 
Square, to be near his work. 

"All at once he stops short, turns round, and comes 
back straight at me. 'Ned,' says he, *I am going 
home.' I had the good luck to sight a four-wheeler 
and got him in just in time. His legs were beginning 
to give way. In our hall he fell dowm on a chair, and 
I'll never forget father's and mother's amazed, per- 
fectly still faces as they stood over him. They couldn't 
understand what had happened to him till I blubbered 
out 'Maggie got drowned, yesterday, in the river.' 

"Mother let out a little cry. Father looks from him 
to me, and from me to him, as if comparing our faces — 
for, upon my soul, Charley did not resemble himself at 
all. Nobody moved; and the poor fellow raises his big 
brown hands slowly to his throat, and with one single 
tug rips everything open — collar, shirt, waistcoat, into 
rags — a perfect wreck and ruin of a man. Father and I 
got him upstairs somehow, and mother pretty nearly 
killed herself nursing him through a brain fever." 

The man in tweeds nodded at me significantly. 

"Ah! there was nothing that could be done with that 
l>rute. She had a devil in her." 



156 A SET OF SIX 

"Where's your brother?" I asked, expecting to 
hear he was dead. But he was commanding a smart 
steamer on the China coast, and never came home now. 

Jermyn fetched a heavy sigh, and the handkerchief 
being now sufficiently dry, put it up tenderly to his red 
and lamentable nose. 

*'She was a ravening beast," the man in tweeds 
started again. "Old Colchester put his foot down and 
resigned. And would you believe it? Apse & Sons 
wrote to ask whether he wouldn't reconsider his deci- 
sion! Anything to save the good name of the Apse 
Family ! Old Colchester went to the office then and 
said that he would take charge again but only to sail 
her out into the North Sea and scuttle her there. He 
was nearly off his chump. He used to be darkish iron- 
gray, but his hair went snow-white in a fortnight. And 
Mr. Lucian Apse (they had known each other as young 
men) pretended not to notice it. Eh? Here's in- 
fatuation if you like! Here's pride for you! 

"They jumped at the first man they could get to 
take her, for fear of the scandal of the Apse Family not 
being able to find a skipper. He was a festive soul, I 
believe, but he stuck to her grim and hard. Wilmot 
was his second mate. A harum-scarum fellow, and 
pretending to a great scorn for all the girls. The fact 
is he was really timid. But let only one of them do as 
much as lift her little finger in encouragement, and 
there was nothing that could hold the beggar. As 



THE BRUTE 157 

apprentice, once, he deserted abroad after a petticoat, 
and would have gone to the dogs then if his skipper 
hadn't taken the trouble to find him and lug him by the 
ears out of some house of perdition or other. 

"It was said that one of the firm had been heard 
once to express a hope that this brute of a ship would 
get lost soon. I can hardly credit the tale, unless it 
might have been Mr. Alfred Apse, whom the family 
didn't think much of. They had him in the oflSce, but 
he was considered a bad egg altogether, always flying 
off to race meetings and coming home drunk. You 
would have thought that a ship so full of deadly tricks 
would run herself ashore some day out of sheer cussed- 
ness. But not she! She was going to last forever. 
She had a nose to keep off the bottom." 

Jermyn made a grunt of approval. 

"A ship after a pilot's own heart, eh?" jeered the 
man in tweeds. "Well, Wilmot managed it. He was 
the man for it, but even he, perhaps, couldn't have 
done the trick without that green-eyed governess, or 
nurse, or whatever she was to the children of IVIr. and 
IMrs. Pamphilius. 

"Those people were passengers in her from Port 
Adelaide to the Cape. ^Yell, the ship went out and 
anchored outside for the day. The skipper — hospitable 
soul — had a lot of guests from town to a farewell lunch — 
as usual with him. It was five in the evening before 
the last shore boat left the side, and the weather looked 



158 A SET OF SIX 

ugly and dark in the gulf. There was no reason for him 
to get under way. However, as he had told everybody 
he was going that day, he imagined it was proper to do 
so anyhow. But as he had no mind after all these 
festivities to tackle the straits in the dark, with a scant 
wind, he gave orders to keep the ship under lower 
topsails and foresail as close as she would lie, dodging 
along the land till the morning. Then he sought his 
virtuous couch. The mate was on deck, having his 
face washed very clean with hard rain squalls. Wilmot 
relieved him at midnight. 

"The Apse Family had, as you observed, a house on 
her poop . . ." 

"A big, ugly white thing, sticking up," Jermyn mur- 
mured, sadly, at the fire. 

"That's it: a companion for the cabin stairs and a 
sort of chart-room combined. The rain drove in gusts 
on the sleepy Wilmot. The ship was then surging 
slowly to the southward, close hauled, with the coast 
within three miles or so to windward. There was noth- 
ing to look out for in that part of the gulf, and Wil- 
mot went round to dodge the squalls under the lee of 
that chart-room, whose door on that side was open. 
The night was black, like a barrel of coal-tar. And 
then he heard a woman's voice whispering to him. 

"That confounded green-eyed girl of the Pamphilius 
people had put the kids to bed a long time ago, of course, 
but it seems couldn't get to sleep herself. She heard 



THE BRUTE 159 

eight bells struck, and the chief mate come below to 
turn in. She waited a bit, then got into her dressing- 
gown and stole across the empty saloon and up the 
stairs into the chart-room. She sat down on the settee 
near the open door to cool herself, I daresay. 

"I suppose when she whispered to Wilmot it was as 
if somebody had struck a match in the fellow's brain. I 
don't know how it was they had got so very thick. 
I fancy he had met her ashore a few times before. I 
couldn't make it out, because, when telling the story, 
Wilmot would break off to swear something awful at 
every second word. We had met on the quay in Syd- 
ney, and he had an apron of sacking up to his chin, a 
big whip in his hand. A wagon-driver. Glad to do 
anji:hing not to starve. That's what he had come 
down to. 

"However, there he was, with his head inside the 
door, on the girl's shoulder as likely as not — officer of 
the watch! The helmsman, on giving his evidence 
afterward, said that he shouted several times that the 
binnacle lamp had gone out. It didn't matter to him, 
because his orders were to 'sail her close.' *I thought 
it funny,' he said, 'that the ship should keep on falling 
off in squalls, but I luffed her up every time as close 
as I was able. It was so dark I couldn't see my hand 
before my face, and the rain came in bucketsful on my 
head.' 

"The truth was that at every squall the wind hauled 



160 A SET OF SIX 

aft a little, till gradually the ship came to be heading 
straight for the coast, without a single soul in her 
being aware of it. Wilmot himself confessed that he 
had not been near the standard compass for an hour. 
He might well have confessed! The first thing he 
knew was the man on the lookout shouting blue murder 
forward there. 

"He tore his neck free, he says, and yelled back at 
him: 'What do you say.''' 

"*I think I hear breakers ahead, sir,' howled the man, 
and came rushing aft with the rest of the watch, in the 
*awfullest blinding deluge that ever fell from the sky,' 
Wilmot says. For a second or so he was so scared and 
bewildered that he could not remember on which side of 
the gulf the ship was. He wasn't a good officer, but he 
was a seaman all the same. He pulled himself to- 
gether in a second, and the right orders sprang to his 
lips without thinking. They were to hard up with the 
helm and shiver the main and mizzen-topsails. 

"It seems that the sails actually fluttered. He 
couldn't see them, but he heard them rattling and bang- 
ing above his head. *No use! She was too slow in 
going off,' he went on, his dirty face twitching, and the 
damn'd carter's whip shaking in his hand. ' She seemed 
to stick fast.' And then the flutter of the canvas above 
his head ceased. At this critical moment the wind 
hauled aft again with a gust, filling the sails, and send- 
ing the ship with a great way upon the rocks on her 



THE BRUTE 161 

lee bow. She had overreached herself in her last little 
game. Her time had come — the hour, the man, the 
black night, the treacherous gust of wind — the right 
woman to put an end to her. The brute deserved 
nothing better. Strange are the instruments of Provi- 
dence. There's a sort of poetical justice " 

The man in tweeds looked hard at me. 

"The first ledge she went over stripped the false keel 
off her. Rip! The skipper, rushing out of his berth, 
found a crazy woman, in a red flannel dressing-gown, 
flying round and round the cuddy, screeching like a 
cockatoo. 

"The next bump knocked her clean under the cabin 
table. It also started the stern-post and carried away 
the rudder, and then that brute ran up a shelving, rocky 
shore, tearing her bottom out, till she stopped short, and 
the foremast dropped over the bows like a gangway." 

"Anybody lost.?" I asked. 

"No one, unless that fellow, Wilmot," answered the 
gentleman, unknown to Miss Blank, looking round for 
his cap. "And his case was worse than drowning for a 
man. Everybody got ashore all right. Gale didn't 
come on till next day, dead from the west, and broke 
up that brute in a surprisingly short time. It was as 
though she had been rotten at heart." . . . He 
changed his tone. "Rain left off. I must get my 
bike and rush home to dinner. I live in Heme Bay — 
came out for a spin this morning." 



162 A SET OF SIX 

He nodded at me in a friendly way, and went out 
with a swagger. 

"Do you know who he is, Jermyn?" I asked. 

The North Sea pilot shook his head dismally. 
"Fancy losing a ship in that silly fashion! Oh, dear! 
oh, dear!" he groaned in lugubrious tones, spreading 
his damp handkerchief again like a curtain before the 
glowing grate. 

On going out I exchanged a glance and a smile 
(strictly proper) with the respectable Miss Blank, bar- 
maid of the Three Crows. 



A DESPERATE TALE 



AN ANARCHIST 

THAT year I spent the best two months of the dry 
season on one of the estates — in fact on the prin- 
cipal cattle estate — of a famous meat-extract 
manufacturing company. 

B. O. S. Bos. You have seen the three magic let- 
ters on the advertisement pages of magazines and news- 
papers, in the windows of provision merchants, and on 
calendars for next year you receive by post in the month 
of November. They scatter pamphlets also, ■vxTitten in 
a sickly enthusiastic style and in several languages, 
giving statistics of slaughter and bloodshed enough 
to make a Turk turn faint. The "art" illustrating that 
"literature" represents in vivid and shining colours a 
large and enraged black bull stamping upon a yellow 
snake writhing in emerald-green grass, with a cobalt- 
blue sky for a background. It is atrocious and it is 
an allegory. The snake symbolizes disease, weakness — 
perhaps mere hunger, which last is the chronic disease 
of the majority of mankind. Of course everybody 
knows the B. 0. S. Ltd., with its unrivalled products: 
Vinobos, Jellybos, and the latest unequalled perfection, 
Tribos, whose nourishment is offered to you not only 
highly concentrated, but already half digested. Such, 

165 



166 A SET OF SIX 

apparently, is the love that Limited Company bears to 
its fellowmen — even as the love of the father and 
mother penguin for their hmigry fledglings. 

Of course the capital of a country must be pro- 
ductively employed. I have nothing to say against the 
company. But being myself animated by feelings of 
affection toward my fellowmen, I am saddened by the 
modem system of advertising. Whatever evidence it 
offers of enterprise, ingenuity, impudence, and resource 
in certain individuals, it proves to my mind the wide 
prevalence of that form of mental degradation which is 
called gullibility. 

In various parts of the civilized and uncivihzed world 
I have had to swallow B. O. S. with more or less benefit 
to myself, though without great pleasure. Prepared 
with hot water and abundantly peppered to bring out 
the taste, this extract is not really unpalatable. But I 
have never swallowed its advertisements. Perhaps 
they have not gone far enough. As far as I can remem- 
ber they make no promise of everlasting youth to the 
users of B. O. S., nor yet have they claimed the power of 
raising the dead for their estimable products. Why this 
austere reserve, I wonder ! But I don't think they would 
have had me even on these terms. Whatever form of 
mental degradation I may (being but human) be suffer- 
ing from, it is not the popular form. I am not gullible. 

I have been at some pains to bring out distinctly this 
statement about myself in view of the story which fol- 



AN ANARCHIST 167 

lows. I have checked the facts as far as possible. I 
have turned up the files of French newspapers, and I 
have also talked with the oflScer who commands the 
mihtary guard on the He Royale, when in the course of 
my travels I reached Cayenne. I beheve the story to 
be in the main true. It is the sort of story that no man, 
I think, would ever invent about himself, for it is 
neither grandiose nor flattering, nor yet funny enough 
to gratify a perverted vanity. 

It concerns the engineer of the steam-launch belong- 
ing to the Marafion cattle estate of the B. O. S. Co., 
Ltd. This estate is also an island — an island as big as 
a small province, lying in the estuary of a great South 
American river. It is wild and not beautiful, but the 
grass growing on its low plains seems to possess ex- 
ceptionally nourishing and flavouring qualities. It re* 
sounds with the lowing of innumerable herds — a deep 
and distressing sound under the open sky, rising like 
a monstrous protest of prisoners condemned to death. 
On the mainland, across twenty miles of discoloured 
muddy water, there stands a city whose name, let us say, 
is Horta. 

But the most interesting characteristic of this island 
(which seems like a sort of penal settlement for con- 
demned cattle) consists in its being the only known 
habitat of an extremely rare and gorgeous butterfly. 
The species is even more rare than it is beautiful, which 
is not saying little. I have already alluded to my 



168 A SET OF SIX 

travels. I travelled at that time, but strictly for myself, 
and with a moderation unknown in our days of round- 
the-world tickets. I even travelled with a purpose. 
As a matter of fact, I am — "Ha, ha, ha! — a desperate 
butterfly-slayer. Ha, ha, ha!" 

This was the tone in which Mr. Harry Gee, the 
manager of the cattle station, alluded to my pursuits. 
He seemed to consider me the greatest absurdity in the 
world. On the other hand, the B. O. S. Co., Ltd., repre- 
sented to him the acme of the nineteenth century's 
achievement. I believe that he slept in his leggings and 
spurs. His days he spent in the saddle flying over the 
plains, followed by a train of half-wild horsemen, who 
called him Don Enrique, and who had no definite idea 
of the B. O. S. Co., Ltd., which paid their wages. He was 
an excellent manager, but I don't see why, when we met 
at meals, he should have thumped me on the back, with 
loud derisive inquiries: "How's the deadly sport to- 
day.'^ Butterflies going strong? Ha, ha, ha!" — es- 
pecially as he charged me two dollars per diem for the 
hospitality of the B. O. S. Co., Ltd. (capital £1,500,000, 
full}' paid up), in whose balance-sheet for that year 
those moneys are no doubt included. "I don't think 
I can make it anything less in justice to my company," 
he had remarked, with extreme gravity, when I was ar- 
ranging with him the terms of my stay on the island. 

His chaff would have been harmless enough if in- 
timacy of intercourse in the absence of all friendly 



AN ANARCHIST 169 

feeling were not a thing detestable in itself. Moreover, 
his facetiousness was not very amusing. It consisted 
in the wearisome repetition of descriptive phrases 
applied to people with a burst of laughter. "Desperate 
butterfly-slayer. Ha, ha, ha!" was one sample of his 
peculiar wit which he himself enjoyed so much. And 
in the same vein of exquisite humour he called my 
attention to the engineer of the steam-launch, one day, 
as we strolled on the path by the side of the creek. 

The man's head and shoulders emerged above the 
deck, over which were scattered various tools of his 
trade and a few pieces of machinery. He was doing 
some repairs to the engines. At the sound of our foot- 
steps he raised anxiously a grimy face with a pointed 
chin and a tiny fair moustache. WTiat could be seen of 
his delicate features under the black smudges appeared 
to me wasted and livid in the greenish shade of the 
enormous tree spreading its foliage over the launch 
moored close to the bank. 

To my great surprise, Harry Gee addressed him as 
"Crocodile," in that half -jeering, half -bullying tone 
which is characteristic of self-satisfaction in his delect- 
able kind: 

"How does the work get on, Crocodile.'" 

I should have said before that the amiable Harry had 
picked up French of a sort somewhere — in some colony 
or other — and that he pronounced it with a disagree- 
able, forced precision as though he meant to guy the 



170 A SET OF SIX 

language. The man in the launch answered him 
quickly in a pleasant voice. His eyes had a liquid soft- 
ness and his teeth flashed dazzlingly white between his 
thin drooping lips. The manager turned to me, very 
cheerful and loud, explaining: 

**I call him Crocodile because he hves half in, half 
out of, the creek. Amphibious — see? There's nothing 
else amphibious living on the island except crocodiles; 
so he must belong to the species — eh? But in reality 
he's nothing less than un citoyen anarchiste de Bar- 
celone" 

"A citizen anarchist from Barcelona?" I repeated, 
stupidly, looking down at the man. He had tm-ned to 
his work in the engine-well of the launch and presented 
his bowed back to us. In that attitude I heard him 
protest, very audibly: 

"I do not even know Spanish." 

"Hey? What? You dare to deny you come from 
over there?" the accomphshed manager was down on 
him truculently. 

At this the man straightened himself up, dropping a 
spanner he had been using, and faced us; but he 
trembled in all his limbs. 

**I deny nothing, nothing, nothing!" he said, ex- 
citedly. 

He picked up the spanner and went to work again, 
without paying any further attention to us. After 
looking at him for a minute or so, we went away. 



AN ANARCHIST 171 

"Is he really an anarchist?" I asked, when out of 
earshot. 

"I don't care a hang what he is," answered the 
humorous official of the B. 0. S. Co. "I gave him the 
name because it suited me to label him in that way. It*s 
good for the company." 

"For the company!" I exclaimed, stopping short. 

"Aha!" he triumphed, tilting up his hairless pug 
face and straddling his thin long legs. "That surprises 
you. I am bound to do my best for my company. 
They have enormous expenses. Why — our agent in 
Horta tells me they spend fifty thousand pounds every 
year in advertising all over the world ! One can't be too 
economical in working the show. Well, just you listen. 
When I took charge here the estate had no steam-launch. 
I asked for one, and kept on asking by every mail till I 
got it; but the man they sent out with it chucked his 
job at the end of two months, leaving the launch 
moored at the pontoon in Horta. Got a better screw at 
a sawmill up the river — blast him! And ever since it 
has been the same thing. Any Scotch or Yankee 
vagabond that likes to call himself a mechanic out here 
gets eighteen pounds a month, and the next you know 
he's cleared out, after smashing something as likely as 
not. I give you my word that some of the objects I've 
had for engine-drivers couldn't tell the boiler from the 
funnel. But this fellow understands his trade, and I 
don't mean him to clear out. See?" 



172 A SET OF SIX 

And he struck me lightly on the chest for emphasis. 
Disregarding his peculiarities of manner, I wanted to 
know what all this had to do with the man being an 
anarchist. 

" Come ! " jeered the manager. " If you saw suddenly 
a barefooted, unkempt chap slinking amongst the bushes 
on the sea face of the island, and at the same time 
observed less than a mile from the beach a small 
schooner full of niggers hauling off in a hurry, you 
wouldn't think the man fell there from the sky, would 
you? And it could be nothing else but either that or 
Cayenne. I've got my wits about me. Directly I 
sighted this queer game I said to myself: 'Escaped 
Convict.' I was as certain of it as I am of seeing you 
standing here this minute. So I spurred on straight at 
him. He stood his ground for a bit on a sand hillock 
crying out: ^Monsieur! Monsieur! Arretez!' then at 
the last moment broke and ran for life. Says I to my- 
self, 'I'll tame you before I'm done with you.' So 
without a single word I kept on, heading him off here 
and there. I rounded him up toward the shore, and at 
last I had him corralled on a spit, his heels in the water, 
and nothing but sea and sky at his back, with my horse 
pawing the sand and shaking his head within a yard of 
him. 

"He folded his arms on his breast then and stuck his 
chin up in a sort of desperate way; but I wasn't to be 
impressed by the beggar's posturing. 



AN ANARCHIST 173 

"Says I: 'You're a runaway convict.' 

"When he heard French, his chin went down and 
his face changed. 

"'I deny nothing,' says he, panting yet, for I had 
kept him skipping about in front of my horse pretty 
smartly. I asked him what he was doing there. He 
had got his breath by then, and explained that he had 
meant to make his way to a farm which he understood 
(from the schooner's people, I suppose) was to be found 
in the neighbourhood. At that I laughed aloud and he 
got uneasy. Had he been deceived.^ Was there no 
farm u^thin walking distance.^ 

"I laughed more and more. He was on foot, and of 
course the first bunch of cattle he came across would 
have stamped him to rags under their hoofs. A dis- 
mounted man caught on the feeding-grounds hasn't got 
the ghost of a chance. 

"'My coming upon you like this has certainly saved 
your hfe,' I said. He remarked that perhaps it was so; 
but that for his part he had imagined I had wanted to 
kill him under the hoofs of my horse. I assured him 
that nothing would have been easier had I meant it. 
And then we came to a sort of dead stop. For the life 
of me I didn't know what to do with this convict, unless 
I chucked him into the sea. It occurred to me to ask 
him what he had been transported for. He hung his 
head. 

"'WTiat is it.^' says I. 'Theft, murder, rape, or 



174 A SET OF SIX 

what?' I wanted to hear what he would have to say for 
himself, though of course I expected it would be some 
sort of lie. But all he said was : 

"*Make it what you like. I deny nothing. It is no 
good denying anything.* 

**I looked him over carefully and a thought struck 
me. 

*** They've got anarchists there, too,' I said. * Per- 
haps you're one of them.' 

***I deny nothing whatever, monsieur,* he repeats. 

"This answer made me think that perhaps he was 

not an anarchist. I believe those damned lunatics are 

rather proud of themselves. If he had been one, he 

would have probably confessed straight out. 

** 'What were you before you became a convict?* 
" 'Ouvner, he says. 'And a good workman, too.' 
"At that I began to think he must be an anarchist, 
after all. That's the class they come mostly from, isn't 
it? I hate the cowardly bomb-throwing brutes. I 
almost made up my mind to turn my horse short round 
and leave him to starve or drown where he was, which- 
ever he liked best. As to crossing the island to bother 
me again, the cattle would see to that. I don't know 
what induced me to ask: 

***What sort of a workman?* 

"I didn't care a hang whether he answered me or 
not. But when he said at once, * Mecaniden, mon- 
iieuTy* I nearly jimiped out of the saddle with excitement. 



AN ANARCHIST 175 

The launch had been lying disabled and idle in the 
creek for three weeks. My duty to the company was 
clear. He noticed my start, too, and there we were 
for a minute or so staring at each other as if bewitched. 
**'Get up on my horse behind me,' I told him. 'You 
shall put my steam-launch to rights.' " 

These are the words in which the worthy manager 
of the Maranon estate related to me the coming of the 
supposed anarchist. He meant to keep him — out of a 
sense of duty to the company — and the name he had 
given him would prevent the fellow from obtaining 
employment anywhere in Horta. The vaqueros of the 
estate, when they went on leave, spread it all over the 
town. They did not know what an anarchist was, nor 
yet what Barcelona meant. They called him Anarchisto 
de Barcelona, as if it were his Christian name and sur- 
name. But the people in town had been reading in their 
papers about the anarchists in Europe and were very 
much impressed. Over the jocular addi ion of "de 
Barcelona" Mr. Harry Gee chuckled with immense 
satisfaction. "That breed is particularly murderous, 
isn't it? It makes the sawmills crowd still more afraid 
of having anything to do with him — see.'*" he exulted, 
candidly. "I hold him by that name better than if I 
had him chained up by the leg to the deck of the steam- 
launch. 

"And mark," he added, after a pause, "he does not 



176 A SET OF SIX 

deny it. I am not wronging him in any way. He is a 
convict of some sort, anyhow." 

*'But I suppose you pay him some wages, don't you? " 
I asked. 

"Wages! What does he want with money here.? 
He gets his food from my kitchen and his clothing from 
the store. Of course I'll give him something at the end 
of the year, but you don't think I'd employ a convict 
and give him the same money I would give an honest 
man.f^ I am looking after the interests of my company 
first and last." 

I admitted that, for a company spending fifty 
thousand pounds every year in advertising, the strictest 
economy was obviously necessary. The manager of the 
Marailon Estancia grunted approvingly. 

"And I'll tell you what," he continued: "if I were 
certain he's an anarchist and he had the cheek to ask me 
for money, I would give him the toe of my boot. How- 
ever, let him have the benefit of the doubt. I am per- 
fectly willing to take it that he has done nothing worse 
than to stick a knife into somebody — with extenuating 
circumstances — French fashion, don't you know. But 
that subversive sanguinary rot of doing away with all 
law and order in the world makes my blood boil. It's 
simply cutting the ground from under the feet of every 
decent, respectable, hard-working person. I tell you 
that the consciences of people who have them, like 
you or I, must be protected in some way; or else the 



AN ANARCHIST 177 

first low scoundrel that came along would in every 
respect be just as good as myself. Wouldn't he, now? 
And that's absurd!" 

He glared at me. I nodded slightly and murmured 
that doubtless there was much subtle truth in his view. 

The principal truth discoverable in the views of Paul 
the engineer was that a little thing may bring about the 
undoing of a man. 

"7/ ne faiit pas beaucoup pour perdre un homme,'^ he 
jaid to me, thoughtfully, one evening. 

I report this reflection in French, since the man was 
of Paris, not of Barcelona at all. At the Maranon he 
lived apart from the station, in a small shed with a 
metal roof and straw walls, which he called mon atelier. 
He had a work-bench there. They had given him 
several horse-blankets and a saddle — not that he ever 
had occasion to ride, but because no other bedding was 
used by the working-hands, who were all vaqueros — 
cattlemen. And on this horseman's gear, like a son of 
the plains, he used to sleep amongst the tools of his trade 
in a litter of rusty scrap-iron, with a portable forge at 
his head, under the work-bench sustaining his grimy 
mosquito-net. 

Now and then I would bring him a few candle ends 
saved from the scant supply of the manager's house. 
He was very thankful for these. He did not like to lie 
awake in the dark, he confessed. He complained that 



178 A SET OF SIX 

sleep fled from him. "Le sommeil mefuit" he declared, 
with his habitual air of subdued stoicism, which made 
him sympathetic an4 touching. I made it clear to him 
that I did not attach undue importance to the fact of 
his having been a convict. 

Thus it came about that one evening he was led to 
talk about himself. As one of the bits of the candle on 
the edge of the bench burned down to the end, he 
hastened to light another. 

He had done his military service in a provincial 
garrison and returned to Paris to follow his trade. It 
was a well-paid one. He told me with some pride that 
in a short time he was earning no less than ten francs a 
day. He was thinking of setting up for himself by and 
by and of getting married. 

Here he sighed deeply and paused. Then with a re- 
turn to his stoical note: 

**It seems I did not know enough about myself." 

On his twenty -fifth birthday two of his friends in the 
repairing shop where he worked proposed to stand him 
a dinner. He was immensely touched by this attention. 

"I was a steady man," he remarked, "but I am not 
less sociable than any other body." 

The entertainment came off in a little cafe on the 
Boulevard de la Chapelle. At dinner they drank some 
special wine. It was excellent. Everything was excel- 
lent; and the world — in his own words — seemed a very 
good place to live in. He had good prospects, some 



AN ANARCHIST 179 

little money laid by, and the affection of two excellent 
friends. He offered to pay for all the drinks after 
dinner, which was only proper on his part. 

They drank more wine; they drank liqueurs, cognac, 
beer, then more liqueurs and more cognac. Two 
strangers sitting at the next table looked at him, he said, 
with so much friendliness that he invited them to join 
the party. 

He had never drunk so much in his life. His elation 
was extreme, and so pleasurable that whenever it flagged 
he hastened to order more drinks. 

"It seemed to me," he said, in his quiet tone and 
looking on the ground in the gloomy shed full of 
shadows, "that I was on the point of just attaining a 
great and wonderful felicity. Another drink, I felt, 
would do it. The others were holding out well with 
me, glass for glass." 

But an extraordinary thing happened. At some- 
thing the strangers said his elation fell. Gloomy ideas 
— des idees noires — rushed into his head. All the world 
outside the cafe appeared to him as a dismal evil place 
where a multitude of poor wretches had to work and 
slave to the sole end that a few individuals should ride 
in carriages and live riotously in palaces. He became 
ashamed of his happiness. The pity of mankind's cruel 
lot wrung his heart. In a voice choked with sorrow he 
tried to express these sentiments. He thinks he wept 
and swore in turns. 



180 A SET OF SIX 

The two new acquaintances hastened to applaud his 
humane indignation. Yes. The amount of injustice 
in the world was indeed scandalous. There was only 
one way of dealing with the rotten state of society. 
Demolish the whole sacree boutique. Blow up the whole 
iniquitous show. 

Their heads hovered over the table. They whispered 
to him eloquently; I don't think they quite expected 
the result. He was extremely drunk — mad drunk. 
With a howl of rage he leaped suddenly upon the table. 
Ejcking over the bottles and glasses, he yelled: "Vive 
V anarchic! Death to the capitalists!" He yelled this 
again and again. All round him broken glass was fall- 
ing, chairs were being swung in the air, people were 
taking each other by the throat. The police dashed in. 
He hit, bit, scratched, and struggled, till something 
crashed down upon his head. . . . 

He came to himself in a pohce cell, locked up on a 
charge of assault, seditious cries, and anarchist propa- 
ganda. 

He looked at me fixedly with his liquid, shining eyes, 
that seemed very big in the dim light. 

"That was bad. But even then I might have got off 
somehow, perhaps," he said slowly. 

I doubt it. But whatever chance he had was done 
away with by a young socialist lawyer who volunteered 
to undertake his defence. In vain he assured him that 
he was no anarchist; that he was a quiet, respectable 



AN ANARCHIST 181 

mechanic, only too anxious to work ten hours per day 
at his trade. He was represented at the trial as the 
victim of society and his drunken shoutings as the ex- 
pression of infinite suffering. The young lawyer had 
his way to make, and this case was just what he wanted 
for a start. The speech for the defence was pronounced 
magnificent. 

The poor fellow paused, swallowed, and brought out 
the statement: 

"I got the maximum penalty applicable to a first 
offence." 

I made an appropriate murmur. He hung his head 
and folded his arms. 

"When they let me out of prison," he began, gently, 
*'I made tracks, of course, for my old workshop. My 
patron had a particular liking for me before; but when 
he saw me he turned green with fright and showed me 
the door with a shaking hand." 

While he stood in the street, uneasy and disconcerted, 
he was accosted by a middle-aged man who introduced 
himself as an engineer's fitter, too. "I know who you 
are," he said. "I have attended your trial. You are a 
good comrade and your ideas are sound. But the devil 
of it is that you won't be able to get work anywhere 
now. These bourgeois'll conspire to starve you. That's 
their way. Expect no mercy from the rich." 

To be spoken to so kindly in the street had comforted 
him very much. His seemed to be the sort of nature 



182 A SET OF SIX 

needing support and sympathy. The idea of not being 
able to find work had knocked him over completely. If 
his patron, who knew him so well for a quiet, orderly, 
competent workman, would have nothing to do with 
him now — then surely nobody else would. That was 
clear. The police, keeping their eye on him, would 
hasten to warn every employer inclined to give him a 
chance. He felt suddenly very helpless, alarmed, and 
idle; and he followed the middle-aged man to the 
estaminet round the corner where he met some other 
good companions. They assured him that he would not 
be allowed to starve, work or no work. They had 
drinks all round to the discomfiture of all employers of 
labour and to the destruction of society. 

He sat biting his lower lip. 

"That is, monsieur, how I became a compagnon," he 
said. The hand he passed over his forehead was 
trembling. "All the same, there's something wrong in 
a world where a man can get lost for a glass more or 
less." 

He never looked up, though I could see he was get- 
ting excited under his dejection. He slapped the bench 
with his open palm. 

"No!" he cried. "It was an impossible existence! 
Watched by the police, watched by the comrades, I 
did not belong to myself any more! Why, I could not 
even go to draw a few francs from my savings-bank 
without a comrade hanging about the door to see that 



AN ANARCHIST 183 

I didn't bolt! And most of them were neither more 
nor less than housebreakers. The intelligent, I mean. 
They robbed the rich; they were only getting back 
their own, they said. When I had had some drink I 
believed them. There were also the fools and the mad. 
Des exaltSs — quoi! When I was drunk I loved them. 
When I got more drink I was angry with the world. 
That was the best time. I found refuge from misery in 
rage. But one can't be always drunk — rCest-ce pas, 
monsieur? And when I was sober I was afraid to break 
away. They would have stuck me like a pig." 

He folded his arms again and raised his sharp chin 
with a bitter smile. 

"By and by they told me it was time to go to work. 
The work was to rob a bank. Afterward a bomb 
would be thrown to wreck the place. My beginner's 
part would be to keep watch in a street at the back and 
to take care of a black bag with the bomb inside till it 
was wanted. After the meeting at which the affair was 
arranged a trusty comrade did not leave me an inch. 
I had not dared to protest; I was afraid of being done 
away with quietly in that room; only, as we were 
walking together I wondered whether it would not 
be better for me to throw myself suddenly into the 
Seine. But while I was turning it over in my mind 
we had crossed the bridge, and afterward I had not 
the opportunity." 

In the light of the candle end, with his sharp features, 



184 A SET OF SIX 

flufTy little moustache, and oval face, he looked at 
times delicately and gayly young, and then appeared 
quite old, decrepit, full of sorrow, pressing his folded 
arms to his breast. 

As he remained silent I felt boimd to ask: 

" WeU ! And how did it end? " 

"Deportation to Cayenne," he answered. 

He seemed to think that somebody had given the 
plot away. As he was keeping watch in the back 
street, bag in hand, he was set upon by the police. 
"These imbeciles," had knocked him down without 
noticing what he had in his hand. He wondered how the 
bomb failed to explode as he fell. But it didn't explode. 

"I tried to tell my story in court," he continued. 
"The president was amused. There were in the audi- 
ence some idiots who laughed." 

I expressed the hope that some of his companions 
had been caught, too. He shuddered slightly before he 
told me that there were two — Simon, called also Biscuit, 
the middle-aged fitter who spoke to him in the street, 
and a fellow of the name of Mafile, one of the sym- 
pathetic strangers who had applauded his sentiments 
and consoled his humanitarian sorrows when he got 
drunk in the cafe. 

"Yes," he went on, with an effort, "I had the ad- 
vantage of their company over there on St. Joseph's 
Island, amongst some eighty or ninety other convicts. 
We were all classed as dangerous." 



AN ANARCHIST 185 

St. Joseph's Island is the prettiest of the lies de Salut. 
It is rocky and green, with shallow ravines, bushes, 
thickets, groves of mango-trees, and many feather^' 
palms. Six warders armed with revolvers and car- 
bines are in charge of the convicts kept there. 

An eight-oared galley keeps up the communication 
in the daytime, across a channel a quarter of a mile 
wide, with the He Roy ale, where there is a military post. 
She makes the first trip at six in the morning. At four 
in the afternoon her service is over, and she is then 
hauled up into a little dock on the He Royale and a 
sentry put over her and a few smaller boats. From 
that time till next morning the island of St. Joseph 
remains cut off from the rest of the world, with the 
warders patrolling in turn the path from the warders' 
house to the convict huts, and a multitude of sharks 
patrolling the waters all round. 

Under these circumstances the convicts planned a 
mutiny. Such a thing had never been known in the 
penitentiary's history before. But their plan was not 
without some possibility of success. The warders were 
to be taken by surprise and murdered during the night. 
Their arms would enable the convicts to shoot do^Ti 
the people in the galley as she came alongside in the 
morning. The galley once in their possession, other 
boats were to be captured, and the whole company was 
to row away up the coast. 

At dusk the two warders on duty mustered the con- 



186 A SET OF SIX 

victs as usual. Then they proceeded to inspect the 
huts to ascertain that everything was in order. In the 
second they entered they were set upon and absolutely 
smothered under the numbers of their assailants. The 
twilight faded rapidly. It was a new moon; and a 
heavy black squall gathering over the coast increased 
the profound darkness of the night. The convicts 
assembled in the open space, deliberating upon the next 
step to be taken, argued amongst themselves in low 
voices. 

"You took part in all this.?" I asked. 

"No. I knew what was going to be done, of course. 
But why should I kill these warders.'' I had nothing 
against them. But I was afraid of the others. WTiat- 
ever happened, I could not escape from them. I sat 
alone on the stump of a tree with my head in my hands, 
sick at heart at the thought of a freedom that could be 
nothing but a mockery to me. Suddenly I was startled 
to perceive the shape of a man on the path near by. 
He stood perfectly still, then his form became effaced in 
the night. It must have been the chief warder coming 
to see what had become of his two men. No one noticed 
him. The convicts kept on quarrelling over their plans. 
The leaders could not get themselves obeyed. The 
fierce whispering of that dark mass of men was very 
horrible. 

"At last they divided into two parties and moved off. 
When they had passed me I rose, weary and hopeless. 



AN ANARCHIST 187 

The path to the warders' house was dark and silent, 
but on each side the bushes rustled slightly. Presently 
I saw a faint thread of light before me. The chief 
warder, followed by his three men, was approaching 
cautiously. But he had failed to close his dark lantern 
properly. The convicts had seen that faint gleam, too. 
There was an aw^ul savage yell, a turmoil on the dark 
path, shots fired, blows, groans: and with the sound of 
smashed bushes, the shouts of the pursuers and the 
screams of the pursued, the man-hunt, the warder- 
hunt, passed by me into the interior of the island. I 
was alone. And I assure you, monsieur, I was in- 
different to everything. After standing still for a 
while, I walked on along the path till I kicked some- 
thing hard. I stooped and picked up a warder's 
revolver. I felt with my fingers that it was loaded 
in five chambers. In the gusts of wind I heard the 
convicts calling to each other far away, and then a 
roll of thunder would cover the soughing and rustling of 
the trees. Suddenly a big light ran across my path 
very low along the ground. And it showed a woman's 
skirt with the edge of an apron. 

*'I knew that the person who carried it must be the 
wife of the head warder. They had forgotten all about 
her, it seems. A shot rang out in the interior of the 
island, and she cried out to herself as she ran. She 
passed on. I followed, and presently I saw her again. 
She was pulling at the cord of the big bell which hangs 



188 A SET OF SIX 

at the end of the landing-pier, with one hand, and with 
the other she was swinging the heavy lantern to and fro. 
This is the agreed signal for the He Royale should 
assistance be required at night. The wind carried the 
sound away from our island and the light she swung 
was hidden on the shore side by the few trees that grow 
near the warders' house. 

"I came up quite close to her from behind. She 
went on without stopping, without looking aside, as 
though she had been all alone on the island. A brave 
woman, monsieur. I put the revolver inside the breast 
of my blue blouse and waited. A flash of lightning 
and a clap of thunder destroyed both the sound and 
the light of the signal for an instant, but she never 
faltered, pulling at the cord and swinging the lantern as 
regularly as a machine. She was a comely woman of 
thirty — no more. I thought to myself, *A11 that's no 
good on a night like this.' And I made up my mind 
that if a body of my fellow-convicts came down to the 
pier — which was sure to happen soon — I would shoot 
her through the head before I shot myself. I knew the 
'comrades' well. This idea of mine gave me quite an 
interest in life, monsieur; and at once, instead of re- 
maining stupidly exposed on the pier, I retreated a little 
way and crouched behind a bush. I did not intend to 
let myself be pounced upon unawares and be prevented 
perhaps from rendering a supreme service to at least 
one human creature before I died myself. 



AN ANARCHIST 189 

"But we must believe the signal was seen, for the 
galley from He Royale came over in an astonishingly 
short time. The woman kept right on till the light of 
her lantern flashed upon the oflBcer in command and 
the bayonets of the soldiers in the boat. Then she sat 
down and began to cry. 

"She didn't need me any more. I did not budge. 
Some soldiers were only in their shirt-sleeves, others 
without boots, just as the call to arms had found them. 
They passed by my bush at the double. The galley had 
been sent away for more; and the woman sat all alone 
crying at the end of the pier, uath the lantern standing 
on the ground near her. 

"Then suddenly I saw in the light at the end of the 
pier the red pantaloons of two more men. I was over- 
come with astonishment. They, too, started off at a 
run. Their tunics flapped unbuttoned and they were 
bare-headed. One of them panted out to the other: 
'Straight on, straight on!' 

"Where on earth did they spring from, I wondered. 
Slowly I walked down the short pier. I saw the 
woman's form shaken by sobs and heard her moaning 
more and more distinctly, * Oh, my man ! my poor man ! 
ray poor man!' I stole on quietly. She could neither 
hear nor see anji:hing. She had thrown her apron over 
her head and was rocking herself to and fro in her grief. 
But I remarked a small boat fastened to the end of the 
pier. 



190 A SET OF SIX 

"Those two men — they looked like sous-officiers — 
must have come in it, after being too late, I suppose, for 
the galley. It is incredible that they should have thus 
broken the regulations from a sense of duty. And it 
was a stupid thing to do. I could not believe my eyes 
in the very moment I was stepping into that boat. 

"I pulled along the shore slowly. A black cloud 
hung over the lies de Salut. I heard firing, shouts. 
Another hunt had begun — the convict-hunt. The oars 
"were too long to pull comfortably. I managed them 
with difficulty, though the boat herself was light. But 
when I got round to the other side of the island the 
squall broke in rain and wind. I was unable to make 
head against it. I let the boat drift ashore and secured 
her. 

"I knew the spot. There was a tumbledown old 
hovel standing near the water. Cowering in there, I 
heard through the noises of the wind and the falling 
downpour some people tearing through the bushes. 
They came out on the strand. Soldiers, perhaps. A 
flash of lightning threw everything near me into violent 
relief. Two convicts! 

"And directly an amazed voice exclaimed: *It's a 
miracle !' It was the voice of Simon, otherwise Biscuit. 

"And another voice growled, 'What's a miracle?' 

"'Why, there's a boat lying here!' 

"'You must be mad, Simon! But there is, after all. 
. . . A boat.' 



AN ANARCHIST 191 

"They seemed awed into complete silence. The 
other man was Mafile. He spoke again, cautiously: 

"'It is fastened up. There must be somebody here.' 

" I spoke to them from within the hovel: 'I am here.* 

"They came in then, and soon gave me to understand 
that the boat was theirs, not mine. 'There are two of 
us,' said Mafile, 'against you alone.' 

"I got out into the open to keep clear of them for 
fear of getting a treacherous blow on the head. I could 
have shot them both where they stood. But I said 
nothing. I kept do^\Tl the laughter rising in my throat. 
I made myself very humble and begged to be allowed to 
go. They consulted in low tones about my fate, while 
with my hand on the revolver in the bosom of my blouse 
I had their lives in my power. I let them live. I meant 
them to pull that boat. I represented to them with 
abject humility that I understood the management of a 
boat, and that, being three to pull, we could get a rest 
in turns. That decided them at last. It was time. A 
little more and I would have gone into screaming fits at 
the drollness of it." 

At this point his excitement broke out. He jumped 
off the bench and gesticulated. The great shadows of 
his arms darting over roof and walls made the shed 
appear too small to contain his agitation. 

"I deny nothing," he burst out. "I was elated, 
monsieur. I tasted a sort of felicity. But I kept very 
quiet. I took my turns at pulling all through the night. 



192 A SET OF SIX 

We made for the open sea, putting our trust in a passing 
ship. It was a foolhardy action. I persuaded them to 
it. When the sun rose the immensity of water was 
calm, and the lies de Salut appeared only like dark 
specks from the top of each swell. I was steering then. 
Mafile, who was pulling bow, let out an oath and said : 
'We must rest.' 

"The time to laugh had come at last. And I took 
my fill of it, I can tell you. I held my sides and rolled 
in my seat, they had such startled faces. 'What's got 
into him, the animal.'*' cries Mafile. 

"And Simon, who was nearest to me, says over his 
shoulder to him: 'Devil take me if I don't think he's 
gone mad!' 

"Then I produced the revolver. Aha! In a mo- 
ment they both got the stoniest eyes you can imagine. 
Ha, ha! They were frightened. But they pulled. 
Oh, yes, they puUed all day, sometimes looking wild 
and sometimes looking faint. I lost nothing of it, 
because I had to keep my eyes on them all the time, or 
else — crack! — they would have been on top of me in 
a second. I rested my revolver hand on my knee all 
ready and steered with the other. Their faces began to 
blister. Sky and sea seemed on fire round us and the 
sea steamed in the sun. The boat made a sizzling sound 
as she went through the water. Sometimes Mafile 
foamed at the mouth and sometimes he groaned. But 
he pulled. He dared not stop. His eyes became blood- 



AN ANARCHIST 193 

shot all over, and he had bitten his lower lip to pieces. 
Simon was as hoarse as a crow. 

"'Comrade ' he begins. 

"'There are no comrades here. I am your patron.* 

"'Patron, then,' he says, 'in the name of humanity 
let us rest.' 

"I let them. There was a little rainwater washing 
about the bottom of the boat. I permitted them to 
snatch some of it in the hollow of their palms. But as I 
gave the command ' En route' I caught them exchanging 
significant glances. They thought I would have to go 
to sleep some time! Aha! But I did not want to 
go to sleep. I was more awake than ever. It is they 
who went to sleep as they pulled, tumbling off the 
thwarts head over heels suddenly, one after another. 
I let them lie. All the stars were out. It was a 
quiet world. The sun rose. Another day. Allez ! En 
route ! 

"They pulled badly. Their eyes rolled about and 
their tongues hung out. In the middle of the forenoon 
Mafiile croaks out : ' Let us make a rush at him, Simon. 
I would just as soon be shot at once as to die of thirst, 
hunger, and fatigue at the oar.' 

"But while he spoke he pulled; and Simon kept on 
pulling, too. It made me smile. Ah! They loved 
their life, these two, in this evil world of theirs, just 
as I used to love my life, too, before they spoiled it 
for me with their phrases. I let them go on to the 



194 A SET OF SIX 

point of exhaustion, and only then I pointed out at the 
sails of a ship on the horizon. 

"Aha! You should have seen them revive and 
buckle to their work! For I kept them at it to pull 
right across that ship's path. They were changed. The 
sort of pity I had felt for them left me. They looked 
more like themselves every minute. They looked at 
me with the glances I remembered so well. They were 
happy. They smiled. 

*"Well,' says Simon, 'the energy of that youngster 
has saved our lives. If he hadn't made us, we could 
never have pulled so far out into the track of ships. 
Comrade, I forgive you. I admire you.' 

"And Mafile growls from forward: 'We owe you a 
famous debt of gratitude, comrade. You are cut out 
for a chief.' 

"Comrade! Monsieur! Ah, what a good word! 
And they, such men as these two, had made it accursed. 
I looked at them. I remembered their lies, their 
promises, their menaces, and all my days of misery. 
Why could they not have left me alone after I came out 
of prison? I looked at them and thought that while 
they lived I could never be free. Never. Neither I 
nor others like me with warm hearts and weak heads. 
For I know I have not a strong head, monsiem*. A 
black rage came upon me — the rage of extreme intoxi- 
cation — but not against the injustice of society. Oh, 
no! 



AN ANARCHIST 195 

"*I must be free!' I cried, furiously. 

"'Vive la liberie!' yells that ruffian Mafile. 'Mori 
aux bourgeois who send us to Cayenne! They shall 
soon know that we are free.' 

"The sky, the sea, the whole horizon, seemed to turn 
red, blood red all round the boat. My temples were 
beating so loud that I wondered they did not hear. 
How is it that they did not? How is it they did not 
understand.'' 

"I heard Simon ask, *Have we not pulled far enough 
out now.'*' 

"'Yes. Far enough,' I said. I was sorry for him; 
it was the other I hated. He hauled in his oar with a 
loud sigh, and as he was raising his hand to wipe his 
forehead with the air of a man who has done his work, I 
pulled the trigger of my revolver and shot him like this 
off the knee, right through the heart. 

"He tumbled down, with his head hanging over the 
side of the boat. I did not give him a second glance. 
The other cried out piercingly. Only one shriek of 
horror. Then all was still. 

"He slipped oflF the thwart on to his knees and raised 
his clasped hands before his face in an attitude of suppli- 
cation. 'Mercy,' he whispered, faintly. 'Mercy for 
me! — comrade.' 

*"Ah, comrade,' I said, in a low tone. 'Yes, com- 
rade, of course. Well, then, shout Vive Vanarchie* 

"He flung up his arms, his face up to the sky and 



196 A SET OF SIX 

his mouth wide open in a great yell of despair: *Vive 
Vanarchie! Vive ' 

"He collapsed all in a heap, with a bullet through 
his head. 

"I flung them both overboard. I threw away the 
revolver, too. Then I sat down quietly. I was free at 
last! At last. I did not even look toward the ship; 
I did not care; indeed, I think I must have gone to 
sleep, because all of a sudden there were shouts and I 
found the ship almost on top of me. They hauled me 
on board and secured the boat astern. They were all 
blacks, except the captain, who was a mulatto. He 
alone knew a few words of French. I could not find 
out where they were going nor who they were. They 
gave me something to eat every day; but I did not Hke 
the way they used to discuss me in their language. 
Perhaps they were dehberating about throwing me over- 
board in order to keep possession of the boat. How do 
I know.'^ As we were passing this island I asked 
whether it was inhabited. I understood from the 
mulatto that there was a house on it. A farm, I fancied, 
they meant. So I asked them to put me ashore on 
the beach and keep the boat for their trouble. This, I 
Imagine, was just what they wanted. The rest you 
know." 

After pronouncing these words he lost suddenly all 
control over himself. He paced to and fro rapidly, till 
at last he broke into a run; his arms went like a wind- 



AN ANARCHIST 197 

mill and his ejaculations became very much like raving. 
The burden of them was that he "denied nothing, 
nothing!" I could only let him go on, and sat out of 
his way, repeating, "Calmez vous, calmez vouSy^ at in- 
tervals, till his agitation exhausted itself. 

I must confess, too, that I remained there long after 
he had crawled under his mosquito-net. He had en- 
treated me not to leave him; so, as one sits up with a 
nervous child, I sat up with him — in the name of 
humanity — till he fell asleep. 

On the whole, my idea is that he was much more of 
an anarchist than he confessed to me or to himself; and 
that, the special features of his case apart, he was very 
much like many other anarchists. Warm heart and 
weak head — that is the word of the riddle; and it is a 
fact that the bitterest contradictions and the deadHest 
conflicts of the world are carried on in every individual 
breast capable of feeling and passion. 

From personal inquiry I can vouch that the story of 
the convict mutiny was in every particular as stated by 
him. 

When I got back to Horta from Cayenne and saw 
the "anarchist" again, he did not look well. He was 
more worn, still more frail, and very livid indeed under 
the grimy smudges of his calling. Evidently the meat 
of the company's main herd (in its unconcentrated form) 
did not agree with him at all. 

It was on the pontoon in Horta that we met; and I 



198 A SET OF SIX 

tried to induce him to leave the launch moored where 
she was and follow me to Europe there and then. It 
would have been dehghtful to think of the excellent 
manager's surprise and disgust at the poor fellow's 
escape. But he refused with unconquerable obstinacy. 

"Surely you don't mean to live always here!" I cried. 
He shook his head. 

"I shall die here," he said. Then added moodily: 
"Away from them.'^ 

Sometimes I think of him lying open-eyed on his 
horseman's gear in the low shed full of tools and scraps 
of iron — the anarchist slave of the Maranon estate, 
waiting with resignation for that sleep which "fled" from 
him, as he used to say, in such an imaccountable man- 
ner. 



A MILITARY TALE 



THE DUEL 



NAPOLEON I, whose career had the quality of 
duel against the whole of Europe, disliked duel- 
Hng between the oflScers of his army. The great 
military emperor was not a swashbuckler, and had little 
respect for tradition. 

Nevertheless, a story of duelling, which became a 
legend in the army, runs through the epic of imperial 
wars. To the surprise and admiration of their fellows, 
two oflBcers, like insane artists trying to gild refined gold 
or paint the lily, pursued a private contest through 
the years of universal carnage. They were officers of 
cavalry, and their connection with the high-spirited but 
fanciful animal which carries men into battle seems 
particularly appropriate. It would be difficult to im- 
agine for heroes of this legend two officers of infantry of 
the line, for example, whose fantasy is tamed by much 
walking exercise, and whose valour necessarily must be 
of a more plodding kind. As to gunners or engineers, 
whose heads are kept cool on a diet of mathematics, it 
is simply unthinkable. 

The names of the two officers were Feraud and 

201 



202 A SET OF SIX 

D'Hubert, and they were both heutenants in a regi- 
ment of hussars, but not in the same regiment. 

Feraud was doing regimental work, but Lieutenant 
D'Hubert had the good fortune to be attached to the 
person of the general commanding the division, as 
ojfficier d'ordonnance. It was in Strasbourg, and in this 
agreeable and important garrison they were enjoying 
greatly a short interval of peace. They were enjoying 
it, though both intensely warlike, because it was a 
sword-sharpening, firelock-cleaning peace, dear to a 
military heart and undamaging to military prestige, 
inasmuch that no one believed in its sincerity or du- 
ration. 

Under those historical circumstances, so favourable 
to the proper appreciation of military leisure. Lieu- 
tenant D'Hubert, one fine afternoon, made his way 
along a quiet street of a cheerful suburb toward Lieu- 
tenant Feraud's quarters, which were in a private house 
with a garden at the back, belonging to an old maiden 
lady. 

His knock at the door was answered instantly by a 
young maid in Alsatian costume. Her fresh complexion 
and her long eyelashes, lowered demurely at the sight of 
the tall officer, caused Lieutenant D'Hubert, who was 
accessible to esthetic impressions, to relax the cold, 
severe gravity of his face. At the same time he 
observed that the girl had over her arm a pair of hussars 
breeches, blue with a red stripe. 



THE DUEL 203 

"Lieutenant Feraud in?" he inquired benevolently. 

*'0h, no, sir! He went out at six this morning." 

The pretty maid tried to close the door. Lieutenant 
D 'Hubert, opposing this move with gentle firmness, 
stepped into the ante-room, jingling his spurs. 

"Come, my dear! You don't mean to say he has 
not been home since six o'clock this morning?" 

Saying these words. Lieutenant D'Hubert opened 
without ceremony the door of a room so comfortably 
and neatly ordered that only from internal evidence in 
the shape of boots, uniforms, and military accoutre- 
ments did he acquire the conviction that it was Lieu- 
tenant Feraud's room. And he saw also that Lieu- 
tenant Feraud was not at home. The truthful maid 
had followed him, and raised her candid eyes to his face. 

**H'm!" said Lieutenant D'Hubert, greatly disap- 
pointed, for he had already visited all the haunts 
where a lieutenant of hussars could be found of a fine 
afternoon. "So he's out? And do you happen to 
know, my dear, why he went out at six this morning?" 

"No," she answered readily. "He came home late 
last night, and snored. I heard him when I got up at 
five. Then he dressed himself in his oldest uniform and 
went out. Service, I suppose." 

"Service? Not a bit of it!" cried Lieutenant 
D'Hubert. "Learn, my angel, that he went out thus 
early to fight a duel with a civilian." 

She heard this news without a quiver of her dark eye- 



204 A SET OF SIX 

lashes. It was very obvious that the actions of Lieu- 
tenant Feraud were generally above criticism. She 
only looked up for a mon ent in mute surprise, and 
Lieutenant D'Hubert concluded from this absence of 
emotion that she must have seen Lieutenant Feraud 
since that morning. He looked around the room. 

"Come!" he insisted, with confidential familiarity. 
"He's perhaps somewhere in the house now?" 

She shook her head. 

*'So much the worse for him!" continued Lieutenant 
D'Hubert, in a tone of anxious conviction. "But he 
has been home this morning." 

This time the pretty maid nodded slightly. 

"He has!" cried Lieutenant D'Hubert. "And went 
out again? What for? Couldn't he keep quietly in- 
doors! What a lunatic! My dear girl " 

Lieutenant D'Hubert's natural kindness of dispo- 
sition and strong sense of comradeship helped his powers 
of observation. He changed his tone to a most insinu- 
ating softness, and, gazing at the hussars breeches 
hanging over the arm of the girl, he appealed to the 
interest she took in Lieutenant Feraud 's comfort and 
happiness. He was pressing and persuasive. He 
used his eyes, which were kind and fine, with excellent 
efi'ect. His anxiety to get hold at once of Lieutenant 
Feraud, for Lieutenant Feraud 's own good, seemed so 
genuine that at last it overcame the girl's unwillingness 
to speak. Unluckily she had not much to tell. Lieu- 



THE DUEL 205 

tenant Feraud had returned home shortly before ten, 
had walked straight into his room, and had thrown 
himself on his bed to resume his slumbers. She had 
heard him snore rather louder than before far into the 
afternoon. Then he got up, put on his best uniform, 
and went out. That was all she knew. 

She raised her eyes, and Lieutenant D'Hubert stared 
into them incredulously. 

"It's incredible! Gone parading the town in his best 
uniform! My dear child, don't you know he ran that 
civilian through this morning? Clean through, as you 
spit a hare." 

The pretty maid heard the gruesome intelligence 
without any signs of distress. But she pressed her lips 
together thoughtfully. 

"He isn't parading the town," she remarked in a low 
tone. "Far from it." 

"The civilian's family is making an awful row," con- 
tinued Lieutenant D'Hubert, pursuing his train of 
thought. "And the general is very angry. It's one of 
the best families in the town. Feraud ought to have 
kept close at least " 

"What will the general do to him?" inquired the girl 
anxiously. 

"He won't have his head cut ofiF, to be sure," grumbled 
Lieutenant D'Hubert. "His conduct is positively in- 
decent. He's making no end of trouble for himself by 
this sort of bravado." 



206 A SET OF SIX 

"But he isn't parading the town," the maid insisted 
in a shy murmur. 

"Why, yes! Now I think of it, I haven't seen him 
anywhere about. What on earth has he done with 
himself?" 

"He's gone to pay a call," suggested the maid, after 
a moment of silence. 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert started. 

"A call! Do you mean a call on a lady? The 
cheek of the man! And how do you know this, my 
dear?" 

Without concealing her woman's scorn for the dense- 
ness of the masculine mind, the pretty maid reminded 
him that Lieutenant Feraud had arrayed himself in his 
best uniform before going out. He had also put on his 
newest dolman, she added, in a tone as if this conver- 
sation were getting on her nerves, and turned away 
brusquely. 

Lieutenant D'Hubert, without questioning the ac- 
curacy of the deduction, did not see that it advanced him 
much on his official quest. For his quest after 
Lieutenant Feraud had an official character. He did 
not know any of the women this fellow, who had run a 
man through in the morning, was likely to visit in the 
afternoon. The two young men knew each other but 
slightly. He bit his gloved finger in perplexity. 

" Call ! " he exclaimed. " Call on the devil ! " 

The girl, with her back to him, and folding the 



THE DUEL 207 

hussars breeches on a chair, protested with a vexed 
httle laugh: 

"Oh, dear, no! On Madame de Lionne." 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert whistled softly. Madame de 
Lionne was the wife of a high official who had a well- 
knowTi salon and some pretensions to sensibility and 
elegance. The husband was a civilian, and old; but the 
society of the salori was young and military. Lieuten- 
ant D'Hubert had whistled, not because the idea of 
pursuing Lieutenant Feraud into that very salon was 
disagreeable to him, but because, having arrived in 
Strasbourg only lately, he had not had the time as yet 
to get an introduction to Madame de Lionne. And 
what was that swashbuckler Feraud doing there, he 
wondered. He did not seem the sort of man who 

"Are you certain of what you say?" asked Lieuten- 
ant D'Hubert. 

The girl was perfectly certain. Without turning 
round to look at him, she explained that the coachman 
of their next door neighbours knew the maitre-d' hotel of 
Madame de Lionne. In this way she had her informa- 
tion. And she was perfectly certain. In giving this 
assurance she sighed. Lieutenant Feraud called there 
nearly every afternoon, she added. 

*'Ah, bah!" exclaimed D'Hubert ironically. His 
opinion of Madame de Lionne went down several de- 
grees. Lieutenant Feraud did not seem to him 
specially worthy of attention on the part of a woman 



208 A SET OF SIX 

with a reputation for sensibility and elegance. But 
there was no saying. At bottom they were all alike — 
very practical rather than idealistic. Lieutenant D'Hu- 
bert, however, did not allow his mind to dwell on 
these considerations. 

"By thunder!" he reflected aloud. "The General 
goes there sometimes. If he happens to find the fellou" 
making eyes at the lady there will be the devil to pay! 
Our General is not a very accommodating person, I can 
tell you." 

"Go quickly, then! Don't stand here now I've told 
you where he is!" cried the girl, colouring to the eyes. 

"Thanks, my dear! I don't know what I would 
have done without you." 

After manifesting his gratitude in an aggressive way, 
which at first was repulsed violently, and then submitted 
to with a sudden and still more repellent indifference, 
Lieutenant D 'Hubert took his departure. 

He clanked and jingled along the streets with a 
martial swagger. To run a comrade to earth in a 
drawing-room where he was not known did not trouble 
him in the least. A uniform is a passport. His 
position as officier d'ordonnance of the general added to 
his assurance. Moreover, now that he knew where to 
find Lieutenant Feraud, he had no option. It was a 
service matter. 

Madame de Lionne's house had an excellent appear- 
ance. A man in livery, opening the door of a large 



THE DUEL 209 

drawing-room with a waxed floor, shouted his name 
and stood aside to let him pass. It was a reception day. 
The ladies wore big hats surcharged with a profusion of 
feathers; their bodies, sheathed in clinging white gowns 
from the armpits to the tips of the low satin shoes, 
looked sylphlike and cool in a great display of bare 
necks and arms. The men who talked with them, on 
the contrary, were arrayed heavily in multi-coloured 
garments with collars up to their ears and thick sashes 
round their waists. Lieutenant D 'Hubert made his 
unabashed way across the room and, bowing low be- 
fore a sylphlike form reclining on a couch, offered his 
apologies for this intrusion, which nothing could excuse 
but the extreme urgency of the service order he had to 
communicate to his comrade Feraud. He proposed to 
himself to return presently in a more regular manner 
and beg forgiveness for interrupting the interesting 
conversation . . . 

A bare arm was extended toward him with gracious 
nonchalance even before he had finished speaking. He 
pressed the hand respectfully to his lips, and made the 
mental remark that it was bony. Madame de Lionne 
was a blonde, with too fine a skin and a long face. 

"C'est ga!" she said, with an ethereal smile, disclos- 
ing a set of large teeth. "Come this evening to plead 
for your forgiveness." 

"I will not fail, madame." 

Meantime Lieutenant Feraud, splendid in his new 



210 A SET OF SIX 

dolman and the extremely polished boots of his calling, 
sat on a chair within a foot of the couch, one hand rest- 
ing on his thigh, the other twirling his moustache to a 
point. At a significant glance from D 'Hubert he rose 
without alacrity, and followed him into the recess of a 
window. 

"What is it you want with me.^" he asked, with 
astonishing indifference. Lieutenant D 'Hubert could 
not imagine that in the innocence of his heart and sim- 
plicity of his conscience Lieutenant Feraud took a view 
of his duel in which neither remorse nor yet a rational 
apprehension of consequences had any place. Though he 
had no clear recollection how the quarrel had originated 
(it was begun in an establishment where beer and wine 
are drunk late at night), he had not the slightest doubt 
of being himself the outraged party. He had had two 
experienced friends for his seconds. Ever;yi:hing had 
been done according to the rules governing that sort of 
adventures. And a duel is obviously fought for the 
purpose of some one being at least hurt, if not killed 
outright. The civilian got hurt. That also was in 
order. Lieutenant Feraud was perfectly tranquil; but 
Lieutenant D'Hubert took it for affectation, and spoke 
with a certain vivacity. 

"I am directed by the General to give you the order 
to go at once to your quarters, and remain there imder 
close arrest." 

It was now the turn of Lieutenant Feraud to be 



THE DUEL 211 

astonished. "What the devil are you telling me there?" 
he murmured faintly, and fell into such profound wonder 
that he could only follow mechanically the motions of 
Lieutenant D'Hubert. The two officers, one tall, with 
an interesting face and moustache the colour of ripe 
corn, the other short and sturdy, with a hooked nose 
and a thick crop of black curly hair, approached the 
mistress of the house to take their leave. Madame de 
Lionne, a wom^an of eclectic taste, smiled upon these 
armed young men with impartial sensibility and an 
equal share of interest. Madame de Lionne took her 
delight in the infinite variety of the human species. All 
the other eyes in the drawing-room followed the de- 
parting officers ; and when they had gone out one or two 
men, who had already heard of the duel, imparted the 
information to the sylphlike ladies, who received it 
with faint shrieks of humane concern. 

Meantime the two hussars walked side by side. Lieu- 
tenant Feraud trying to master the hidden reason of 
things which in this instance eluded the grasp of his in- 
tellect; Lieutenant D'Hubert feeling annoyed at the 
part he had to play, because the general's instructions 
were that he should see personally that Lieutenant Fer- 
aud carried out his orders to the letter, and at once. 

"The chief seems to know this animal," he thought, 
eying his companion, whose round face, the round eyes, 
and even the twisted-up jet black little moustache 
seemed animated by a mental exasperation against the 



212 A SET OF SIX 

incomprehensible. And aloud he observed rather re- 
proachfully, "The General is in a devilish fury with you !" 

Lieutenant Feraud stopped short on the edge of the 
pavement, and cried in the accents of unmistakable 
sincerity, "What on earth for?" The innocence of the 
fiery Gascon soul was depicted in the manner in which 
he seized his head in both hands as if to prevent it 
bursting with perplexity. 

"For the duel," said Lieutenant D'Hubert curtly. 
He was annoyed gi*eatly at this sort of perverse fooling. 

"The duel! The . . ." 

Lieutenant Feraud passed from one paroxysm of 
astonishment into another. He dropped his hands and 
walked on slowly, trying to reconcile this information 
with the state of his own feelings. It was impossible. 
He burst out indignantly, "Was I to let that sauer- 
kraut-eating civilian wipe his boots on the uniform of 
the Seventh Hussars." 

Lieutenant D'Hubert could not remain altogether un- 
moved by that simple sentiment. This little fellow was 
a lunatic, he thought to himself, but there was something 
in what he said. 

"Of course I don't know how far you were justified," 
he began soothingly. "And the General himself may 
not be exactly informed. Those people have been 
deafening him with their lamentations." 

"Ah! the General is not exactly informed," mumbled 
Lieutenant Feraud, walldng faster and faster as his 



THE DUEL 213 

choler at the injustice of his fate began to rise. "He 
is not exactly . , . And he orders me under close 
arrest, with God knows what afterward!" 

"Don't excite yourself like this," remonstrated the 
other. "Your adversary's people are very influential, 
you know, and it looks bad enough on the face of it. 
The General had to take notice of their complaint at 
once. I don't think he means to be over-severe with 
you. It's the best thing for you to be kept out of sight 
for a while." 

"I am very much obliged to the General," muttered 
Lieutenant Feraud through his teeth. "And perhaps 
you would say I ought to be grateful to you, too, for the 
trouble you have taken to hunt me up in the drawing- 
room of a lady who " 

"Frankly," interrupted Lieutenant D'Hubert, with 
an innocent laugh, "I think you ought to be. I had no 
end of trouble to find out where you were. It wasn't 
exactly the place for you to disport yourself in under 
the circumstances. If the General had caught you there 
making eyes at the goddess of the temple . . . 
oh, my word! ... He hates to be bothered with 
complaints against his oflScers, you know. And it 
looked uncommonly like sheer bravado." 

The two officers had arrived now at the street door 
of Lieutenant Feraud's lodgings. The latter turned 
toward his companion. "Lieutenant D'Hubert," he 
said, "I have something to say to you which can't be 



214 A SET OF SIX 

said very well in the street. You can't refuse to come 
up." 

The pretty maid had opened the door. Lieutenant 
Feraud brushed past her brusquely, and she raised her 
scared and questioning eyes to Lieutenant D'Hubert, 
who could do nothing but shrug his shoulders slightly 
as he followed with marked reluctance. 

In his room Lieutenant Feraud unhooked the clasp, 
flung his new dolman on the bed, and, folding his arms 
across his chest, turned to the other hussar. 

"Do you imagine I am a man to submit tamely to 
injustice?" he inquired in a boisterous voice. 

"Oh, do be reasonable!" remonstrated Lieutenant 
D'Hubert. 

*'I am reasonable! I am perfectly reasonable!" 
retorted the other with ominous restraint. "I can't 
call the General to account for his behaviour, but you 
are goi:i^' to answer to me for yours." 

"I can't listen to this nonsense," murmured Lieuten- 
ant D'Hubert, making a slightly contemptuous grimace. 

"You call this nonsense.'' It seems to me a perfectly 
plain statement . Unless you don't understand French." 

"What on earth do you mean.''" 

"I mean," screamed suddenly Lieutenant Feraud, 
"to cut off your ears to teach you to disturb me with 
the General's orders when I am talking to a lady!" 

A profound silence followed this mad declaration; 
and through the open window Lieutenant D'Hubert 



THE DUEL 215 

heard the Httle birds singing sanely in the garden. He 
said, preserving his calm, "Why! If you take that 
tone, of course I shall hold myself at your disposition 
whenever you are at liberty to attend to this affair; but 
I don't think you will cut my ears off." 

*'I am going to attend to it at once," declared Lieuten- 
ant Feraud, with extreme truculence. "If you are 
thinking of displaying your airs and graces to-night in 
Madame de Lionne's salon you are very much mis- 
taken." 

"Really!" said Lieutenant D'Hubert, who was be- 
ginning to feel irritated, " you are an impracticable sort of 
fellow. The General's orders to me were to put you 
imder arrest, not to carve you into small pieces. Good- 
morning!" And turning his back on the little Gascon, 
who, always sober in his potations, was as though born 
intoxicated with the sunshine of his vine-ripening 
country, the Northman, who could drink hard on 
occasion, but was born sober under the watery skies of 
Picardy, made for the door. Hearing, however, the 
unmistakable sound behind his back of a sword drawn 
from the scabbard, he had no option but to stop. 

"Devil take this mad Southerner!" he thought, spin- 
ning round and surveying with composure the warlike 
posture of Lieutenant Feraud, with a bare sword in his 
hand. 

"At once — at once!" stuttered Feraud, beside him- 
self. 



21G A SET OF SIX 

"You had my answer," said the other, keeping his 
temper very well. 

At first he had been only vexed, and somewhat 
amused; but now his face got clouded. He was asking 
himself seriously how he could manage to get away. It 
was impossible to run from a man with a sword, and as 
to fighting him, it seemed completely out of the question. 
He waited a while, then said exactly what was in his 
heart. 

"Drop this! I won't fight with you. I won't be 
made ridiculous." 

*'Ah, you won't.^^" hissed the Gascon. "I suppose 
you prefer to be made infamous. Do you hear what I 
say.'' . . . Infamous! Infamous! Infamous!" he 
shrieked, rising and falling on his toes and getting very 
red in the face. 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert on the contrary became very 
pale at tlie sound of the unsavoury word for a moment, 
then flushed pink to the roots of his fair hair. "But 
you can't go out to fight; you are under arrest, you 
lunatic!" he objected, with angry scorn. 

"There's the garden: it's big enough to lay out your 
long carcass in," spluttered the other, with such ardour 
that somehow the anger of the cooler man subsided. 

"This is perfectly absurd," he said, glad enough to 
think he had found a way out of it for the moment. 
"We shall never get any of our comrades to serve as 
seconds. It's preposterous." 



THE DUEL 217 

"Seconds! Damn the seconds! We don't want 
any seconds. Don't you worry about any seconds. I 
shall send word to your friends to come and bury you 
when I am done. And if you want any witnesses, 
I'U send word to the old girl to put her head out of 
a window at the back. Stay! There's the gardener. 
He'll do. He's as deaf as a post, but he has two eyes 
in his head. Come along! I will teach you, my staff 
officer, that the carrying about of a general's orders is 
not always child's play." 

WTiile thus discoursing he had unbuckled his empty 
scabbard. He sent it flying under the bed, and, lower- 
ing the point of the sword, brushed past the perplexed 
Lieutenant D'Hubert, exclaiming, "Follow me!" Di- 
rectly he had flung open the door a faint shriek was 
heard, and the pretty maid, who had been listening at 
the keyhole, staggered aw^ay, putting the backs of her 
hands over her eyes. Feraud did not seem to see her, 
but she ran after him and seized his left arm. He shook 
her off, and then she rushed toward Lieutenant D'Hu- 
bert and clawed at the sleeve of his uniform. 

"Wretched man!" she sobbed. "Is this what you 
wanted to find him for.f* " 

"Let me go," entreated Lieutenant D'Hubert, trying 
to disengage himself gently. "It's like being in a mad- 
house," he protested, with exasperation. "Do let me 
go! I won't do him any harm." 

A fiendish laugh from Lieutenant Feraud commented 



218 A SET OF SIX 

that assui-ance. "Come along!" he shouted, with a 
stamp of his foot. 

And Lieutenant D'Hubert did follow. He could do 
nothing else. Yet in vindication of his sanity it must 
be recorded that as he passed through the anteroom 
the notion of opening the street door and bolting out 
presented itself to this brave youth, only of course to be 
instantly dismissed, for he felt sure that the other would 
pursue him without shame or compunction. And the 
prospect of an officer of hussars being chased along the 
street by another officer of hussars with a naked sword 
could not be for a moment entertained. Therefore he 
followed into the garden. Behind them the girl tot- 
tered out, too. .With ashy lips and wild scared eyes, 
she surrendered herself to a dreadful curiosity. She 
had also the notion of rushing if need be between Lieu- 
tenant Feraud and death. 

The deaf gardener, utterly unconscious of approach- 
ing footsteps, went on watering his flowers till Lieuten- 
ant Feraud thumped him on the back. Beholding 
suddenly an enraged man flourishing a big sabre, the 
old chap trembling in all his limbs dropped the watering- 
pot. At once Lieutenant Feraud kicked it away with 
great animosity, and, seizing the gardener by the throat, 
backed him against a tree. He held him there, shout- 
ing in his ear, "Stay here, and look on! You under- 
stand? You've got to look on! Don't dare budge 
from the spot!" 



THE DUEL 219 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert came slowly down the walk, un- 
clasping his dolman with unconcealed disgust. Even 
then, with his hand already on the hilt of his sword, he 
hesitated to draw till a roar, "En garde, fichtre. WTiat 
do you think you came here for?" and the rush of his 
adversary forced him to put himself as quickly as pos- 
sible in a posture of defence. 

The clash of arms filled that prim garden, which 
hitherto had known no more warlike sound than the 
click of clipping shears; and presently the upper part of 
an old lady's body was projected out of a window up- 
stairs. She tossed her arms above her white cap, 
scolding in a cracked voice. The gardener remained 
glued to the tree, his toothless mouth open in idiotic 
astonishment, and a little farther up the path the pretty 
girl, as if spellbound to a small grass plot, ran a few 
steps this way and that, WTinging her hands and mutter- 
ing crazily. She did not rush between the combatants: 
the onslaughts of Lieutenant Feraud were so fierce that 
her heart failed her. Lieutenant D'Hubert, his facul- 
ties concentrated upon defence, needed all his skill and 
science of the sword to stop the rushes of his adversary. 
Twice already he had to break ground. It bothered 
him to feel his foothold made insecure by the round, 
dry gravel of the path rolling under the hard soles of 
his boots. This was most unsuitable ground, he thought, 
keeping a watchful, narrowed gaze, shaded by long 
eyelashes, upon the fiery stare of his thick-set adver- 



220 A SET OF SIX 

sary. This absurd affair would ruin his reputation 
of a sensible, well-behaved, promising young oflBcer. 
It would damage at any rate his immediate prospects, 
and lose him the good-will of his general. These 
worldly preoccupations were no doubt misplaced in 
view of the solemnity of the moment. A duel, whether 
regarded as a ceremony in the cult of honour, or even 
when reduced in its moral essence to a form of manly 
sport, demands a perfect singleness of intention, a 
homicidal austerity of mood. On the other hand, this 
vivid concern for his future had not a bad effect inas- 
much as it began to rouse the anger of Lieutenant 
D'Hubert. Some seventy seconds had elapsed since 
they had crossed blades, and Lieutenant D'Hubert had 
to break ground again in order to avoid impaling his 
reckless adversary like a beetle for a cabinet of speci- 
mens. The result was that, misapprehending the mo- 
tive, Lieutenant Feraud with a triumphant sort of 
snarl pressed his attack. 

"This enraged animal will have me against the wall 
directly," thought Lieutenant D'Hubert. He imag- 
ined himself much closer to the house than he was, and 
he dared not turn his head; it seemed to him that he 
was keeping his adversary off with his eyes rather 
more than with his point. Lieutenant Feraud crouched 
and bounded with a fierce tigerish agility fit to trouble 
the stoutest heart. But what was more appalling 
than the fury of a wild beast, accomplishing in all 



THE DUEL 221 

innocence of heart a natural function, was the fixity 
of savage purpose man alone is capable of displaying. 
Lieutenant D 'Hubert in the midst of his worldly pre- 
occupations perceived it at last. It was an absurd 
and damaging affair to be drawn into, but whatever 
silly intention the fellow had started with, it was clear 
enough that by this time he meant to kill — nothing 
less. He meant it with an intensity of will utterly 
beyond the inferior faculties of a tiger. 

As is the case with constitutionally brave men, the 
full view of the danger interested Lieutenant D'Hubert. 
And directly he got properly interested, the length of 
his arm and the coolness of his head told in his favour. 
It was the turn of Lieutenant Feraud to recoil, with a 
bloodcurdling grunt of baffled rage. He made a swift 
feint, and then rushed straight forward. 

"Ah! you would, would you.''" Lieutenant D'Hubert 
exclaimed mentally. The combat had lasted nearlj^ 
two minutes, time enough for any man to get embittered, 
apart from the merits of the quarrel. And all at once 
it was over. Trying to close breast to breast under 
his adversary's guard, Lieutenant Feraud received a 
slash on his shortened arm. He did not feel it in the 
least, but it checked his rush, and his feet slipping on 
the gravel he fell backward with great violence. The 
shock jarred his boiling brain into the perfect quietude 
of insensibility. Simultaneously with his fall the pretty 
servant-girl shrieked; but the old maiden lady at the 



222 A SET OF SIX 

window ceased her scolding, and began to cross herself 
piously. 

Beholding his adversary stretched out perfectly still, 
his face to the sky, Lieutenant D'Hubert thought he had 
killed him outright. The impression of having slashed 
hard enough to cut his man clean in two abode with 
him for a while in an exaggerated memory of the right 
good will he had put into the blow. He dropped on 
his knees hastily by the side of the prostrate body. 
Discovering that not even the arm was severed, a 
slight sense of disappointment mingled with the feeling 
of relief. The fellow deserved the worst. But truly he 
did not want the death of that sinner. The afiPair was 
ugly enough as it stood, and Lieutenant D'Hubert ad- 
dressed himseK at once to the task of stopping the 
bleeding. In this task it was his fate to be ridiculously 
impeded by the pretty maid. Rending the air with 
screams of horror, she attacked him from behind and, 
twining her fingers in his hair, tugged back at his head. 
Why she should choose to hinder him at this precise 
moment he could not in the least understand. He did 
not try. It was all like a very wicked and harassing 
dream. Twice to save himself from being pulled over 
he had to rise and fling her off. He did this stoically, 
without a word, kneehng down again at once to go on 
with his work. But the third time, his work being 
done, he seized her and held her arms pinned to her 
body. Her cap was half off, her face was red, her eyes 



THE DUEL 223 

blazed with crazy boldness. He looked mildly into 
them while she called him a wretch, a traitor, and a 
murderer many times in succession. This did not 
annoy him so much as the conviction that she had 
managed to scratch his face abundantly. Ridicule 
would be added to the scandal of the story. He im- 
agined the adorned tale making its way through the 
garrison of the toA;vTi, through the whole army on the 
frontier, with every possible distortion of motive and 
sentiment and circumstance, spreading a doubt upon 
the sanity of his conduct and the distinction of his 
taste even to the very ears of his honourable family. 
It was all very well for that fellow Feraud, who had no 
connections, no family to speak of, and no quality but 
courage, which, anyhow, was a matter of course, and 
possessed by every single trooper in the whole mass of 
French cavalry. Still holding down the arms of the 
girl in a strong grip, Lieutenant D'Hubert glanced over 
his shoulder. Lieutenant Feraud had opened his eyes. 
He did not move. Like a man just waking from a 
deep sleep he stared without any expression at the 
evening sky. 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert's urgent shouts to the old 
gardener produced no effect — not so much as to make 
him shut his toothless mouth. Then he remembered 
that the man was stone deaf.. All that time the girl 
struggled, not with maidenly coyness, but like a pretty 
dumb fury, kicking his shins now and then. He con- 



224 A SET OF SIX 

tinued to hold her as if in a vise, his instinct teUing him 
ihat were he to let her go she would fly at his eyes. 
But he was greatly humiliated by his position. At last 
she gave up. She was more exhausted than appeased 
he feared. Nevertheless, he attempted to get out of 
this wicked dream by way of negotiation. 

"Listen to me," he said, as calmly as he could. 
"Will you promise to run for a surgeon if I let you go?" 

With real affliction he heard her declare that she 
would do nothing of the kind. On the contrary, her 
sobbed out intention was to remain in the garden, and 
fight tooth and nail for the protection of the vanquished 
man. This was shocking. 

"My dear child!" he cried in despair, *'is it possible 
that you think me capable of murdering a wounded 
adversary.^ Is it .... Be quiet, you little wild- 
cat, you!" 

They struggled. A thick, drowsy voice said behind 
him, "Wliat are you after with that girl.^" 

Lieutenant Feraud had raised himself on his good 
arm. He was looking sleepily at his other arm, at the 
mess of blood on his uniform, at a small red pool on the 
.ground, at his sabre lying a foot away on the path. Then 
he laid himself down gently again to think it all out, as 
far as a thundering headache would permit of mental 
operations. 

Lieutenant D'Hubert released the girl, who crouched 
at once by the side of the other lieutenant. The shades 



THE DUEL 225 

of night were falling on the little trim garden with this 
touching group, whence proceeded low murmurs of 
sorrow and compassion, with other feeble sounds of a 
diflFerent character, as if an imperfectly awake invalid 
were trying to swear. Lieutenant D 'Hubert went 
away. 

He passed through the silent house, and congratu" 
lated himself upon the dusk concealing his gory hands 
and scratched face from the passers-by. But this story 
could by no means be concealed. He dreaded the 
discredit and ridicule above everything, and was pain- 
fully aware of sneaking through the back streets in 
the manner of a murderer. Presently the sounds of 
a flute coming out of the open window of a lighted 
upstairs room in a modest house interrupted his dismal 
reflections. It was being played with a persevering 
virtuosity, and through the fioritures of the time one 
could hear the regular thumping of the foot beating 
time on the floor. 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert shouted a name, which was 
that of an army surgeon whom he knew fairly well. The 
sounds of the flute ceased, and the musician appeared 
at the window, his instrument still in his hand, peering 
into the street. 

"Who calls? You, D'Hubert? WTiat brings you 
this way?" 

He did not hke to be disturbed at the hour when he 
was playing the flute. He was a man whose hair had 



226 A SET OF SIX 

turned gray already in the thankless task of tying up 
wounds on battlefields where others reaped advance- 
ment and glory. 

**I want you to go at once and see Feraud. You 
know Lieutenant Feraud? He lives down the second 
street. It's but a step from here." 

"What's the matter with him?" 

"Wounded." 

"Are you sure?" 

"Sure!" cried D'Hubert. "I come from there.'* 

"That's amusing," said the elderly surgeon. Amus- 
ing was his favourite word; but the expression of his 
face when he pronounced it never corresponded. He 
was a stolid man. "Come in," he added. "I'll get 
ready in a moment." 

"Thanks! I will. I want to wash my hands in 
your room." 

Lieutenant D'Hubert found the surgeon occupied in 
unscrewing his flute, and packing the pieces methodi- 
cally in a case. He turned his head. 

"Water there — in the corner. Your hands do want 
washing." 

"I've stopped the bleeding," said Lieutenant D'Hu- 
bert. "But you had better make haste. It's rather 
more than ten minutes ago, you know." 

The surgeon did not hurry his movements. 

"What's the matter? Dressing came off? That's 
amusing. I*ve been at work in the hospital all day, but 



THE DUEL 227 

I've been told this morning by somebody that he had 
come off without a scratch." 

"Not the same duel probably," growled moodily 
Lieutenant D 'Hubert, wiping his hands on a coarse 
towel. 

"Not the same. . . . What? Another. It 
would take the very devil to make me go out twice in 
one day." The surgeon looked narrowly at Lieutenant 
D'Hubert. "How did you come by that scratched 
face? Both sides, too — and symmetrical. It's amusing." 

"Very!" snarled Lieutenant D'Hubert. "And you 
will find his slashed arm amusing, too. It will keep 
both of you amused for quite a long time." 

The doctor was mystified and impressed by the 
brusque bitterness of Lieutenant D'Hubert's tone. 
They left the house together, and in the street he was 
still more mystified by his conduct. 

"Aren't you coming with me?" he asked. 

"No," said Lieutenant D'Hubert. "You can find 
the house by yourself. The front door will be standing 
open very likely." 

"All right. WTiere's his room?" 

" Ground floor. But you had better go right through 
and look in the garden first." 

This astonishing piece of information made the 
surgeon go off without further parley. Lieutenant 
D'Hubert regained his quarters nursing a hot and un- 
easy indignation. He dreaded the chaff of his com- 



228 A SET OF SIX 

rades almost as much as the anger of his superiors. 
The truth was confoundedly grotesque and embarrass- 
ing, even putting aside the irregularity of the combat 
itself, which made it come abominably near a criminal 
offence. Like all men without much imagination, a 
faculty which helps the processes of reflective thought. 
Lieutenant D 'Hubert became frightfully harassed by 
the obvious aspects of his predicament. He was cer- 
tainly glad that he had not killed Lieutenant Feraud 
outside all rules, and without the regular witnesses 
proper to such a transaction. Uncommonly glad. At 
the same time he felt as though he would have liked 
to wring his neck for him without ceremony. 

He was still under the sway of these contradictory 
sentiments when the surgeon amateur of the flute came 
to see him. More than three days had elapsed. Lieu- 
tenant D'Hubert was no longer officier d'ordonnance to 
the general commanding the division. He had been 
sent back to his regiment. And he was resuming his 
connection with the soldiers' military family by being 
shut up in close confinement, not at his own quarters 
in town, but in a room in the barracks. Owing to the 
gravity of the incident, he was forbidden to see any one. 
He did not know what had happened, what was being 
said, or what was being thought. The arrival of the 
surgeon was a most unexpected thing to the worried 
captive. The amateur of the flute began by explaining 
that he was there only by a special favour of the colonel. 



THE DUEL 229 

"I represented to him that it would be only fair to 
let you have some authentic news of your adversary," 
he continued. "You'll be glad to hear he's getting 
better fast." 

Lieutenant D'Hubert's face exhibited no conventional 
signs of gladness. He continued to walk the floor of 
the dusty bare room. 

"Take this chair, Doctor," he mumbled. 

The doctor sat down. 

"This affair is variously appreciated — in town and in 
the army. In fact, the diversity of opinions is amusing. '* 

"Is it.'*" mumbled Lieutenant D'Hubert, tramping 
steadily from wall to wall. But within himself he 
marvelled that there could be two opinions on the 
matter. The surgeon continued: 

"Of course, as the real facts are not known " 

"I should have thought," interrupted D'Hubert, "that 
the fellow would have put you in possession of the facts," 

"He said something," admitted the other, "the first 
time I saw him. And, by the by, I did find him in the 
garden. The thump on the back of his head had made 
him a little incoherent then. Afterward he was rather 
reticent than otherwise." 

"Didn't think he would have the grace to be 
ashamed!" mumbled D'Hubert, resuming his pacing^ 
while the doctor murmured: "It's very amusing. 
Ashamed! Shame was not exactly his frame of mind. 
However, you may look at the matter otherwise," 



230 A SET OF STX 

"What are you talking about? Wliat matter?" 
asked D'Hubert, with a sidelong look at the heavy- 
faced, gray-haired figure seated on a wooden chair. 

"Whatever it is," said the surgeon a little impa- 
tiently. "I don't want to pronounce any opinion on 
your conduct " 

"By heavens, you had better not!" burst out D'Hu- 
bert. 

"There! — there! Don't be so quick in flourishing 
the sword. It doesn't pay in the long run. Under- 
stand once for all that I would not carve any of you 
youngsters except with the tools of my trade. But my 
advice is good. If you go on like this you will make 
for yourself an ugly reputation." 

"Go on like what?" demanded Lieutenant D'Hubert, 
stopping short, quite startled. "I! — I! — make for my- 
self a reputation What do you imagine?" 

"I told you I don't wish to judge of the rights and 
wrongs of this incident. It's not my business. Never- 
theless " 

"What on earth has he been telling you?" in- 
terrupted Lieutenant D'Hubert, in a sort of awed 
scare. 

"I told you already, that at first, when I picked him 
up in the garden, he was incoherent. Afterward he 
was naturally reticent. But I gather at least that he 
could not help himself." 

"He couldn't?" shouted Lieutenant D'Hubert in a 



THE DUEL 231 

great voice. Then, lowering his tone impressively, 
** And what about me? Could I help myself? " 

The surgeon stood up. His thoughts were running 
upon the flute, his constant companion with a consoling 
voice. In the vicinity of field ambulances, after twenty- 
four hours' hard work, he had been known to trouble 
with its sweet sounds the horrible stillness of battle- 
fields given over to silence and the dead. The solacing 
hour of his daily life was approaching, and in peace 
time he held on to the minutes as a miser to his hoard. 

**0f course! — of course!" he said perfunctorily. 
**You would think so. It's amusing. However, being 
perfectly neutral and friendly to you both, I have con- 
sented to deliver his message to you. Say that I am 
humouring an invalid if you like. He wants you to 
know that this affair is by no means at an end. He 
intends to send you his seconds directly he has regained 
his strength — providing, of course, the army is not in 
the field at that time." 

"He intends, does he? Why, certainly," spluttered 
Lieutenant D'Hubert in a passion. 

The secret of his exasperation was not apparent to 
the visitor; but this passion confirmed the surgeon in 
the belief which was gaining ground outside that some 
very serious difference had arisen between these two 
young men, something serious enough to wear an air of 
mystery, some fact of the utmost gravity. To settle 
their urgent difference about that fact, those two young 



232 A SET OF SIX 

men had risked being broken and disgraced at the outset 
ahnost of their career. The surgeon feared that the 
forthcoming inquiry would fail to satisfy the public 
curiosity. They would not take the public into their 
confidence as to that something which had passed be- 
tween them of a nature so outrageous as to make them 
face a charge of murder — neither more nor less. 
But what could it be.'* 

The surgeon was not very curious by temperament; 
but that question haunting his mind caused him twice 
that evening to hold the instrument off his lips and sit 
silent for a whole minute — right in the middle of a tune 
— trying to form a plausible conjecture. 

II 

He succeeded in this object no better than the rest 
of the garrison and the whole of society. The two 
young oflScers, of no especial consequence till then, be- 
came distinguished by the universal curiosity as to the 
origin of their quarrel. Madame de Lionne's salon 
was the centre of ingenious surmises; that lady herself 
was for a time assailed by inquiries as being the last 
person known to have spoken to these unhappy and 
reckless young men before they went out together from 
her house to a savage encounter with swords, at dusk, 
in a private garden. She protested she had not ob- 
served anything unusual in their demeanour. Lieuten- 
ant Feraud had been visibly annoyed at being called 



THE DUEL 233 

away. That was natural enough; no man hkes to be 
disturbed in a conversation with a lady famed for her 
elegance and sensibility. But in truth the subject 
bored Madame de Lionne, since her personality could 
by no stretch of reckless gossip be connected with this 
affair. And it irritated her to hear it advanced that 
there might have been some woman in the case. This 
irritation arose, not from her elegance or sensibility, 
but from a more instinctive side of her nature. It be- 
came so great at last that she peremptorily forbade the 
subject to be mentioned under her roof. Near her 
couch the prohibition was obeyed, but farther off in the 
salon the pall of the imposed silence continued to be 
lifted more or less. A personage with a long, pale face, 
resembling the countenance of a sheep, opined, shaking 
his head, that it was a quarrel of long standing en- 
venomed by time. It was objected to him that the 
men themselves were too young for such a theory. They 
belonged also to different and distant parts of France. 
There were other physical impossibilities, too. A sub- 
commissary of the Intendence, an agreeable and culti- 
vated bachelor in kerseymere breeches, Hessian boots, 
and a blue coat embroidered with silver lace, who 
affected to believe in the transmigration of souls, 
suggested that the two had met perhaps in some pre- 
vious existence. The feud was in the forgotten past. 
It might have been something quite inconceivable in 
the present state of their being; but their souls remem- 



234 A SET OF SIX 

bered the animosity, and manifested an instinctive 
antagonism. He developed this theme jocularly. Yet 
the affair was so absurd from the worldly, the military, 
the honourable, or the prudential point of view, that 
this weird explanation seemed rather more reasonable 
than any other. 

The two officers had confided nothing definite to 
any one. Humiliation at having been worsted arms 
in hand, and an uneasy feeling of having been involved 
in a scrape by the injustice of fate, kept Lieutenant 
Feraud savagely dumb. He mistrusted the sympathy 
of mankind. That would, of course, go to that dandi- 
fied staff officer. Lying in bed, he raved aloud to 
the pretty maid who administered to his needs with 
devotion, and listened to his horrible imprecations with 
alarm. That Lieutenant D'Hubert should be made to 
"pay for it," seemed to her just and natural. Her 
principal care was that Lieutenant Feraud should not 
excite himself. He appeared so wholly admirable and 
fascinating to the humility of her heart that her only 
concern was to see him get well quickly, even if it 
were only to resume his visits to Madame de Lionne's 
salon. 

Lieutenant D'Hubert kept silent for the immediate 
reason that there was no one, except a stupid young 
soldier servant, to speak to. Further, he was aware 
that the episode, so grave professionally, had its comic 
side. When reflecting upon it, he still felt that he 



THE DUEL 235 

would like to wring Lieutenant Feraud's neck for him. 
But this formula was figurative rather than precise, 
and expressed more a state of mind than an actual 
physical impulse. At the same time, there was in that 
young man a feeling of comradeship and kindness 
which made him unwilling to make the position of 
Lieutenant Feraud worse than it was. He did not 
want to talk at large about this wretched affair. At 
the inquiry he would have, of course, to speak the truth 
in self-defence. This prospect vexed him. 

But no inquiry took place. The army took the field 
instead. Lieutenant D'Hubert, liberated without re- 
mark, took up his regimental duties; and Lieutenant 
Feraud, his arm just out of the sling, rode unquestioned 
with his squadron to complete his convalescence in the 
smoke of battlefields and the fresh air of night bivouacs. 
This bracing treatment suited him so well that at the 
first rumour of an armistice being signed he could turn 
without misgivings to the thoughts of his private war- 
fare. 

This time it was to be regular warfare. He sent 
two friends to Lieutenant D'Hubert, whose regiment 
was stationed only a few miles away. Those friends 
had asked no questions of their principal. **I owe him 
one, that pretty staff oflBcer," he had said grimly, and 
they went away quite contentedly on their mission. 
Lieutenant D'Hubert had no difficulty in finding two 
friends equally discreet and devoted to their principal. 



236 A SET OF SIX 

"There's a crazy fellow to whom I must give a lesson," 
he had declared curtly; and they asked for no better 
reasons. 

On these grounds an encounter with duelling-swords 
was arranged one early morning in a convenient field. 
At the third set-to Lieutenant D 'Hubert found himself 
lying on his back on the dewy grass with a hole in his 
side. A serene sun rising over a landscape of meadows 
and woods hung on his left. A surgeon — not the flute 
player, but another — was bending over him, feeling 
around the wound. 

"Narrow squeak. But it will be nothing," he pro- 
nounced. 

Lieutenant D'Hubert heard these words with pleas- 
ure. One of his seconds, sitting on the wet grass, and 
sustaining his head on his lap, said, "The fortune of 
war, mon pauvre vieux. What will you have.^ You 
had better make it up like two good fellows. Do!" 

"You don't know what you ask," murmured Lieu- 
tenant D'Hubert, in a feeble voice. "However, if 
he . . ." 

Lq another part of the meadow the seconds of Lieu- 
tenant Feraud were urging him to go over and shake 
hands with his adversary. 

"You have paid him off now — que diable. It's 
the proper thing to do. This D'Hubert is a decent 
fellow." 

"I know the decency of these generals' pets," mut- 



THE DUEL 237 

tered Lieutenant Feraud through his teeth, and the 
sombre expression of his face discouraged further 
efforts at reconciHation. The seconds, bowing from a 
distance, took their men off the field. In the afternoon 
Lieutenant D'Hubert, very popular as a good comrade 
uniting great bravery with a frank and equable temper, 
had many visitors. It was remarked that Lieutenant 
Feraud did not, as is customary, show himself much 
abroad to receive the felicitations of his friends. They 
would not have failed him, because he, too, was liked 
for the exuberance of his southern nature and the sim- 
plicity of his character. In all the places where officers 
were in the habit of assembling at the end of the day, 
the duel of the morning was talked over from every 
point of view. Though Lieutenant D'Hubert had got 
worsted this time, his sword play was commended. No 
one could deny that it was very close, very scientific. 
It was even whispered that if he got touched it was be- 
cause he washed to spare his adversary. But by many 
the vigour and dash of Lieutenant Feraud's attack were 
pronounced irresistible. 

The merits of the two officers as combatants were 
frankly discussed; but their attitude to each other after 
the duel was criticised lightly and with caution. It 
was irreconcilable, and that was to be regretted. But 
after all they knew best what the care of their honour 
dictated. It was not a matter for their comrades to 
pry into over-much. As to the origin of the quarrel. 



238 A SET OF SIX 

the general impression was that it dated from the time 
they were holding garrison in Strasbourg. The musical 
surgeon shook his head at that. It went much farther 
back, he thought. 

"Why, of course! You must know the whole story," 
cried several voices, eager with curiosity. "What 
was it?" 

He raised his eyes from his glass deUberately. "Even 
if I knew ever so well, you can't expect me to tell you, 
since both the principals choose to say nothing." 

He got up and went out, leaving the sense of mystery 
behind him. He could not stay any longer, because 
the witching hour of flute-playing was drawing near. 

After he had gone a very young officer observed 
solemnly, "Obviously! His hps are sealed." 

Nobody questioned the high correctness of that re- 
mark. Somehow it added to the impressiveness of the 
affair. Several older officers of both regiments, prompted 
by nothing but sheer kindness and love of harmony, 
proposed to form a Court of Honour, to which the two 
young men would leave the task of their reconciliation. 
Unfortunately, they began by approaching Lieutenant 
Feraud, on the assumption that, having just scored 
heavily, he would be found placable and disposed to 
moderation. 

The reasoning was sound enough. Nevertheless, the 
move turned out unfortunate. In that relaxation of 
moral fibre, which is brought about by the ease of 



THE DUEL 239 

soothed vanity, Lieutenant Feraud had condescended 
in the secret of his heart to review the case, and even 
had come to doubt not the justice of his cause, but the 
absolute sagacity of his conduct. This being so, he 
was disincHned to talk about it. The suggestion of the 
the regimental wise men put him in a difficult position. 
He was disgusted at it, and this disgust, by a paradox- 
ical logic, reawakened his animosity against Lieutenant 
D 'Hubert. Was he to be pestered by this fellow for- 
ever — the fellow who had an infernal knack of getting 
round people somehow? And yet it was difficult to re- 
fuse point blank that mediation sanctioned by the code 
of honour. 

He met the difficulty by an attitude of grim reserve. 
He twisted his moustache and used vague words. His 
case was perfectly clear. He was not ashamed to 
state it before a proper Court of Honour, neither was 
he afraid to defend it on the ground. He did not see 
any reason to jump at the suggestion before ascertain- 
ing how his adversary was likely to take it. 

Later in the day, his exasperation growing upon him, 
he was heard in a public place saying sardonically, 
"that it would be the very luckiest thing for Lieuten- 
ant D 'Hubert, because the next time of meeting he 
need not hope to get off with the mere trifle of three 
weeks in bed." 

This boastful phrase might have been prompted by 
the most profound Machiavellism. Southern natures 



240 A SET OF SIX 

often hide, under the outward impulsiveness of action 
and speech, a certain amount of astuteness. 

Lieutenant Feraud, mistrusting the justice of men, 
by no means desired a Court of Honour; and the above 
words, according so well with his temperament, had 
also the merit of serving his turn. Whether meant so 
or not, they found their way in less than four-and- 
twenty hours into Lieutenant D'Hubert's bedroom. 
In consequence Lieutenant D'Hubert, sitting propped 
up with pillows, received the overtures made to him next 
day by the statement that the affair was of a nature 
which could not bear discussion. 

The pale face of the wounded officer, his weak voice, 
which he had yet to use cautiously, and the courteous 
dignity of his tone had a great effect on his hearers. 
Reported outside, all this did more for deepening the 
mystery than the vapourings of Lieutenant Feraud. 
This last was greatly relieved at the issue. He began 
to enjoy the state of general wonder, and was pleased to 
add to it by assuming an attitude of fierce discretion. 

The colonel of Lieutenant D'Hubert's regiment was a 
gray-haired, weather-beaten warrior, who took a simple 
view of his responsibilities. "I can't," he said to him- 
self, "let the best of my subalterns get damaged like 
this for nothing. I must get to the bottom of this affair 
privately. He must speak out if the devil were in it. 
The colonel should be more than a father to these 
youngsters." And indeed he loved all his men with as 



THE DUEL 241 

much afifection as a father of a large family can feel for 
every individual member of it. If human beings by 
an oversight of Providence came into the world as mere 
civilians, they were born again into a regiment as infants 
are born into a family, and it was that military birth 
alone which counted. 

At the sight of Lieutenant D 'Hubert standing before 
him very bleached and hollow-eyed the heart of the old 
warrior felt a pang of genuine compassion. All his 
affection for the regiment — that body of men which he 
held in his hand to launch forward and draw back, who 
ministered to his pride and commanded all his thoughts 
— seemed centred for a moment on the person of the 
most promising subaltern. He cleared his throat in a 
threatening manner, and frowned terribly. "You 
must understand," he began, "that I don't care a rap 
for the life of a single man in the regiment. I would 
send the eight hundred and forty-three of you men and 
horses galloping into the pit of perdition with no more 
compunction than I would kill a fly!" 

"Yes, Colonel. You would be riding at our head," 
said Lieutenant D'Hubert with a wan smile. 

The colonel, who felt the need of being very diplo- 
matic, fairly roared at this. "I want you to know, Lieu- 
tenant D'Hubert, that I could stand aside and see you 
all riding to Hades if need be. I am a man to do even 
that if the good of the service and my duty to my 
country required it from me. But that's unthinkable. 



242 A SET OF SIX 

so don't you even hint at such a thing." He glared 
awfully, but his tone softened. "There's some milk yet 
about that moustache of yours, my boy. You don't 
know what a man like me is capable of. I would hide 
behind a haystack if . . . Don't grin at me, sir! 
How dare you.'* If this were not a private conversation, 
I would . . . Look here ! I am responsible for the 
proper expenditure of lives under my command for the 
glory of our country and the honour of the regiment. 
Do you understand that? Well, then, what the devil 
do you mean by letting yourself be spitted like this by 
that fellow of the Seventh Hussars.? It's simply dis- 
graceful!" 

Lieutenant D'Hubert felt vexed beyond measure. 
His shoulders moved slightly. He made no other 
answer. He could not ignore his responsibility. 

The colonel veiled his glance and lowered his voice 
still more. "It's deplorable!" he murmured. And 
again he changed his tone. "Come!" he went on per- 
suasively, but with that note of authority which dwells 
in the throat of a good leader of men, " this affair must 
be settled. I desire to be told plainly what it is all 
about. I demand, as your best friend, to know." 

The compelling power of authority, the persuasive 
influence of kindness, affected powerfully a man just 
risen from a bed of sickness. Lieutenant D'Hubert's 
hand, which grasped the knob of a stick, trembled 
slightly. But his northern temperament, sentimental 



THE DUEL 243 

yet cautious, and clear-sighted, too, in its idealistic way, 
checked his impulse to make a clean breast of the whole 
deadly absurdity. According to the precept of tran- 
scendental wisdom, he turned his tongue seven times 
in his mouth before he spoke. He made then only a 
speech of thanks. 

The colonel listened, interested at first, then looked 
mystified. At last he frowned. "You hesitate.^ — 
mille tonnerres! Haven't I told you that I will conde- 
scend to argue with you — as a friend.''" 

"Yes, Colonel!" answered Lieutenant D'Hubert 
gently. "But I am afraid that after you have heard 
me out as a friend you will take action as my superior 
officer." 

The attentive colonel snapped his jaws. "Well, 
what of that?" he said frankly. "Is it so damnably 
disgraceful.'" 

"It is not," negatived Lieutenant D'Hubert, in a 
faint but firm voice. 

"Of course I shall act for the good of the service. 
Nothing can prevent me doing that. What do you 
think I want to be told for.'' " 

"I know it is not from idle curiosity," protested 
Lieutenant D'Hubert. "I know you will act wisely. 
But what about the good fame of the regiment?" 

"It cannot be afTected by any youthful folly of a 
lieutenant," said the colonel severely. 

"No. It cannot be. But it can be by evil tongues. 



244 A SET OF SIX 

It will be said that a lieutenant of the Fourth Hussars, 
afraid of meeting his adversary, is hiding behind his 
colonel. And that would be worse than hiding behind 
a haystack — for the good of the service. I cannot 
afford to do that, Colonel." 

** Nobody would dare to say anything of the kind," 
began the colonel very fiercely, but ended the phrase on 
an uncertain note. The bravery of Lieutenant D'Hu- 
bert was well known. But the colonel was well aware 
that the duelling courage, the single combat courage, is 
rightly or wrongly supposed to be courage of a special 
sort. And it was eminently necessary that an officer of 
his regiment should possess every kind of courage — and 
prove it, too. The colonel stuck out his lower hp, and 
looked far away with a peculiar glazed stare. This was 
the expression of his perplexity — an expression practi- 
cally unknown in his regiment ; for perplexity is a senti- 
ment which is incompatible with the rank of colonel of 
cavalry. The colonel himself was overcome by the un- 
pleasant novelty of the sensation. As he was not 
accustomed to think except on professional matters 
connected with the welfare of men and horses, and the 
proper use thereof on the field of glory, his intellectual 
efforts degenerated into mere mental repetitions of pro- 
fane language. '' Mille tonnerres ! . . . SacrS nom 
de nom . . . " he thought. 

Lieutenant D 'Hubert coughed painfully, and added 
in a weary voice : "There will be plenty of evil tongues 



THE DUEL 245 

to say that I've been cowed. And I am sure you will 
not expect me to pass that over. I may find myself 
suddenly with a dozen duels on my hands instead of 
this one affair." / 

The direct simplicity of this argument came home to 
the colonel's understanding. He looked at his sub- 
ordinate fixedly. "Sit down, Lieutenant!" he said 
gruffly. "This is the very devil of a ... Sit 
down! " 

"Mon Colonel,'" D'Hubert began again, "I am not 
afraid of evil tongues. There's a way of silencing them. 
But there's my peace of mind, too. I wouldn't be able 
to shake off the notion that I've ruined a brother officer. 
Whatever action you take, it is bound to go farther. 
The inquiry has been dropped — let it rest now. It 
would have been absolutely fatal to Feraud." 

"Hey! What! Did he behave so badly.'" 

"Yes. It was pretty bad," muttered Lieutenant 
D'Hubert. Being still very weak, he felt a disposition 
to cry. 

As the other man did not belong to his own regiment, 
the colonel had no difficulty in believing this. He be- 
gan to pace up and down the room. He was a good 
chief, a man capable of discreet sympathy. But he was 
human in other ways, too, and this became apparent be- 
cause he was not capable of artifice. 

"The very devil. Lieutenant," he blurted out, in the 
innocence of his heart, " is that I have declared my in- 



246 A SET OF SIX 

tention to get to the bottom of this affair. And when a 
colonel says something . . . You see . . ." 

Lieutenant D'Hubert broke in earnestly: "Let me 
entreat you, Colonel, to be satisfied with taking my 
word of honour that I was put into a damnable position 
where I had no option; I had no choice whatever, con- 
sistent with my dignity as a man and an officer. . . . 
After all, Colonel, this fact is the very bottom of this 
affair. Here you've got it. The rest is mere de- 
tail. ..." 

The colonel stopped short. The reputation of Lieu- 
tenant D'Hubert for good sense and good temper 
weighed in the balance. A cool head, a warm heart, 
open as the day. Always correct in his behaviour. One 
had to trust him. The colonel repressed manfully an 
immense curiosity. "H'm! You affirm that as a man 
and an officer. . . . No option? Eh?" 

"As an officer — an officer of the Fourth Hussars, 
too," insisted Lieutenant D'Hubert, "I had not. And 
that is the bottom of the affair. Colonel." 

"Yes. But still I don't see why, to one's colonel. 
. . . A colonel is a father — que diable !'* 

Lieutenant D'Hubert ought not to have been allowed 
out as yet. He was becoming aware of his physical in- 
sufficiency with humiliation and despair. But the 
morbid obstinacy of an invalid possessed him, and 
at the same time he felt with dismay his eyes filling 
with water. This trouble seemed too big to handle. 



THE DLTEL 247 

A tear fell down the thin pale cheek of Lieutenant 
D'Hubert. 

The colonel turned his back on him hastily. You 
could have heard a pin drop. "This is some silly 
woman story — is it not?" 

Saying these words the chief spun round to seize the 
truth, which is not a beautiful shape living in a well, but 
a shy bird best caught by stratagem. This was the last 
move of the colonel's diplomacy. He saw the truth 
shining immistakably in the gesture of Lieutenant 
D 'Hubert raising his weak arms and his eyes to heaven in 
supreme protest. 

"Not a woman affair — eh.^" growled the colonel, 
staring hard. "I don't ask you who or where. All I 
want to know is whether there is a woman in it?" 

Lieutenant D'Hubert's arms dropped, and his weak 
voice was pathetically broken. 

"Nothing of the kind, mon Colonel.''^ 

"On your honour?" insisted the old warrior. 

"On my honour." 

"Very well," said the colonel thoughtfully, and bit 
his lip. The arguments of Lieutenant D 'Hubert, 
helped by his liking for the man, had convinced him. 
On the other hand, it was highly improper that his in- 
tervention, of which he had made no secret, shoukl 
produce no visible effect. He kept Lieutenant D'Hu- 
bert a few minutes longer, and dismissed him kindly. 

"Take a few days more in bed, Lieutenant. What 



248 A SET OF SIX 

the devil does the surgeon mean by reporting you fit for 
duty?" 

On coming out of the colonel's quarters, Lieutenant 
D'Hubert said nothing to the friend who was waiting 
outside to take him home. He said nothing to anybody. 
Lieutenant D'Hubert made no confidences. But on 
the evening of that day the colonel, strolling under the 
elms growing near his quarters, in the company of his 
second in command, opened his lips. 

"I've got to the bottom of this affair," he remarked. 

The lieutenant-colonel, a dry, brown chip of a man 
with short side-whiskers, pricked up his ears at that 
without letting a sign of curiosity escape him. 

"It's no trifle," added the colonel oracularly. The 
other waited for a long while before he murmured : 

"Indeed, sir!" 

"No trifle," repeated the colonel, looking straight 
before him. "I've however forbidden D'Hubert either 
to send to or receive a challenge from Feraud for the 
next twelve months." 

He had imagined this prohibition to save the prestige 
a colonel should have. The result of it was to give an 
official seal to the mystery surrounding this deadly 
quarrel . Lieutenant D 'Hubert repelled by an impassive 
silence all attempts to worm the truth out of him. Lieu- 
tenant Feraud, secretly uneasy at first, regained his 
assurance as time went on. He disguised his igno- 
rance of the meaning of the imposed truce by slight, 



THE DUEL 249 

sardonic laughs, as though he were amused by what he 
intended to keep to himself. "But what will you do?" 
his chums used to ask him. He contented himself by 
replying: ^'Qui vivra verra'' with a little truculent air. 
And everybody admired his discretion. 

Before the end of the truce Lieutenant D'Hubert got 
his troop. The promotion w^as well earned, but some- 
how no one seemed to expect the event. When Lieu- 
tenant Feraud heard of it at a gathering of officers, he 
muttered through his teeth "Is that so. f^" At once he 
unhooked his sabre from a peg near the door, buckled 
it on carefully, and left the company without another 
word He walked hom.e with measured steps, struck a 
light with his flint and steel, and lit his tallow candle. 
Then snatching an unlucky glass tumbler off the mantel- 
piece, he dashed it violently on the floor. 

Now that D Hubert wa an officer of superior rank 
there could be no question of a duel. Neither of them 
could send or receive a challenge without rendering 
himself amenable to a court-martial. It was not to be 
thought of. Lieutenant Feraud, who for many days 
now had experienced no real desire to meet Lieutenant 
D'Hubert arms in hand, chafed again at the syste- 
matic injustice of fate. "Does he think he will escape 
me in that w^ay.^*" he thought indignantly. He saw in 
this promotion an intrigue, a conspiracy, a cowardly 
manoeuvre. That colonel knew what he was doing. 
He had hastened to recommend his favourite for a step. 



250 A SET OF SIX 

It was outrageous that a man should be able to avoid 
the consequences of his acts in such a dark and tortuous 
manner. 

Of a happy-go-lucky disposition, of a temperament 
more pugnacious than military, Lieutenant Feraud had 
been content to give and receive blows for sheer love of 
armed strife, and without much thought of advance- 
ment; but now an urgent desire to get on sprang up in 
his breast. This fighter by vocation resolved in his 
mind to seize showy occasions and to court the favour- 
able opinion of his chiefs like a mere worldling. He 
knew he was as brave as any one, and never doubted his 
personal charm. Nevertheless, neither the bravery 
nor the charm seemed to work very swiftly. Lieuten- 
ant Feraud's engaging, careless truculence of a beau 
sahreur underwent a change. He began to make bitter 
allusions to "clever fellows who stick at nothing to get 
on." The army was full of them, he would say; you 
had only to look round. But all the time he had in view 
one person only, his adversary, D 'Hubert. Once he 
confided to an appreciative friend. "You see, I don't 
know how to fawn on the right side of people. It isn't 
in my character." 

He did not get his step till a week after Austerlitz. 
The Light Cavalry of the Grand Army had its hands 
very full of interesting work for a little while. Directly 
the pressure of professional occupation had been eased, 
Captain Feraud took measures to arrange a meeting 



THE DUEL 251 

without loss of time. "I know my bird," he observed 
grimly. "If I don't look sharp he will take care to get 
himself promoted over the heads of a dozen better men 
than himself. He's got the knack for that sort of thing." 
This duel was fought in Silesia. If not fought to a 
finish, it was, at any rate, fought to a standstill. The 
weapon was the cavalry sabre, and the skill, the science, 
the vigour, and the determination displayed by the ad- 
versaries compelled the admiration of the beholders. 
It became the subject of talk on both shores of the 
Danube, and as far as the garrisons of Gratz and Lay- 
bach. They crossed blades seven times. Both had 
many cuts which bled profusely. Both refused to have 
the combat stopped, time after time, with what appeared 
the most deadly animosity. This appearance was 
caused on the part of Captain D'Hubert by a rational 
desire to be done once for all with this worry; on the 
part of Captain Feraud by a tremendous exaltation of 
his pugnacious instincts and the incitement of wounded 
vanity. At last, dishevelled, their shirts in rags, covered 
with gore, and hardly able to stand, they were led away 
forcibly by their marvelling and horrified seconds. 
Later on, besieged by comrades avid of details, these 
gentlemen declared that they could not have allowed 
that sort of hacking to go on indefinitely. Asked 
whether the quarrel was settled this time, they gave it 
out as their conviction that it was a difference which 
could only be settled by one of the parties remaining 



252 A SET OF SIX 

lifeless on the ground. The sensation spread from army 
corps to army corps, and penetrated at last to the 
smallest detachments of the troops cantoned between 
the Rhine and the Save. In the cafes in Vienna it was 
generally estimated, from details to hand, that the 
adversaries would be able to meet again in three weeks' 
time on the outside. Something really transcendent 
in the way of duelling was expected. 

These expectations were brought to nought by the 
necessities of the service which separated the two 
officers. No official notice had been taken of their 
quarrel. It was now the property of the army, and not 
to be meddled with lightly. But the story of the duel, 
or rather their duelling propensities, must have stood 
somewhat in the way of their advancement, because 
they were still captains when they came together again 
during the war with Prussia. Detached north after 
Jena, with the army commanded by Marshal Berna- 
dotte, Prince of Ponte Corvo, they entered LUbeck to- 
gether. 

It was only after the occupation of that town that 
Captain Feraud found leisure to consider his future con- 
duct in view of the fact that Captain D'Hubert had been 
given the position of third aide-de-camp to the marshal. 
He considered it a great part of a night, and in the 
morning summoned two sympathetic friends. 

"I've been thinking it over calmly," he said, gazing 
at them with bloodshot, tired eyes. "I see that I 



THE DUEL 253 

must get rid of that intriguing personage. Here he's 
managed to sneak on to the personal staff of the 
marshal. It's a direct provocation to me. I can't 
tolerate a situation in which I am exposed any day to 
receive an order through him. And God knows what 
order, too! That sort of thing has happened once be- 
fore — and that's once too often. He understands this 
perfectly, never fear. I can't tell you any more. Now 
you know what it is you have to do.'" 

This encounter took place outside the town of LU- 
beck, on very open ground, selected with special care in 
deference to the general sentiment of the cavalry di- 
vision belonging to the army corps, that this time the 
two oflBcers should meet on horseback. After all, this 
duel was a cavalry affair, and to persist in fighting on 
foot would look like a slight on one's own arm of the 
service. The seconds, startled by the unusual nature 
of the suggestion, hastened to refer to their principals. 
Captain Feraud jumped at it with alacrity. For some 
obscure reason, depending, no doubt, on his psychology, 
he imagined himself invincible on horseback. All alone 
within the four walls of his room he rubbed his hands 
and muttered triumphantly: "Aha! my pretty staff 
officer, I've got you now." 

Captain D'Hubert on his side, after staring hard for 
a considerable time at his friends, shrugged his 
shoulders slightly. This affair had hopelessly and un- 
reasonably complicated his existence for him. One 



254 A SET OF SIX 

absurdity more or less in the development did not 
matter — all absurdity was distasteful to him; but, 
urbane as ever, he produced a faintly ironic smile, and 
said in his calm voice: "It certainly will do away to 
some extent with the monotony of the thing," 

When left alone, he sat down at a table and took his 
head into his hands. He had not spared himself of late, 
and the marshal had been working all his aides-de- 
camp particularly hard. The last three weeks of cam- 
paigning in horrible weather had affected his health. 
When overtired he suffered from a stitch in his wounded 
side, and that uncomfortable sensation always depressed 
him. "It's that brute's doing, too," he thought bit- 
terly. 

The day before he had received a letter from home, 
announcing that his only sister was going to be married. 
He reflected that from the time she was nineteen and he 
twenty-six, when he went away to garrison life in Stras- 
bourg, he had had but two short glimpses of her. They 
had been great friends and confidants ; and now she was 
going to be given away to a man whom he did not know 
— a very worthy fellow no doubt, but not half good 
enough for her. He would never see his old L6onie 
again. She had a capable little head, and plenty of 
tact; she would know how to manage the fellow, to be 
sure. He was easy in his mind about her happiness, 
but he felt ousted from the first place in her thoughts, 
which had been his ever since the girl could speak. A 



THE DUEL ^55 

melancholy regret of the days of his childhood settled 
upon Captain D 'Hubert, third aide-de-camp to the 
Prince of Ponte Corvo. 

He threw aside the letter of congratulation he had 
begun to write as in duty bound, but without enthusi- 
asm. He took a fresh piece of paper, and traced on it 
the words: "This is my last will and testament." 
Looking at these words, he gave himself up to unpleas- 
ant reflection; a presentiment that he would never see 
the scenes of his childhood weighed down the equable 
spirits of Captain D'Hubert. He jumped up, pushing 
his chair back, yawned elaborately in sign that he 
didn't care anything for presentiments, and throwing 
himself on the bed went to sleep. During the night he 
shivered from time to time without waking up. In the 
morning he rode out of town between his two seconds, 
talking of indifferent things, and looking right and left 
with apparent detachment into the heavy morning 
mists shrouding the flat green fields bordered by 
hedges. He leaped a ditch, and saw the forms of 
many mounted men moving in the fog. "We are to 
fight before a gallery, it seems," he muttered to himself 
bitterly. 

His seconds were rather concerned at the state of 
the atmosphere, but presently a pale, sickly sun strug- 
gled out of the low vapours, and Captain D'Hubert 
made out, in the distance, three horsemen riding a little 
apart from the others. It was Captain Feraud and 



256 A SET OF SIX 

his seconds. He drew his sabre, and assured himself 
that it was properly fastened to his wrist. And now 
the seconds, who had been standing in close group with 
the heads of their horses together, separated at an easy 
canter, leaving a large, clear field between him and his 
adversary. Captain D 'Hubert looked at the pale sun, 
at the dismal fields, and the imbecility of the impending 
fight filled him with desolation. From a distant part of 
the field a stentorian voice shouted commands at proper 
intervals: Au pas — Autrot — Charrrgezi . . . Pre- 
sentiments of death don't come to a man for nothing, he 
thought at the very moment he put spurs to his horse. 

And therefore he was more than surprised when, at 
the very first set-to, Captain Feraud lad himself open 
to a cut over the forehead, which, blinding him with 
blood, ended the combat almost before it had fairly 
begun. It was impossible to go on. Captain D'Hu- 
bert, leaving his enemy swearing horribly and reeling in 
the saddle between his two appalled friends, leaped the 
ditch again into the road and trotted home with his 
two seconds, who seemed rather awestruck at the 
speedy issue of that encounter. In the evening Cap- 
tain D'Hubert finished the congratulatory letter on 
his sister's marriage. 

He finished it late. It was a long letter. Captain 
D'Hubert gave reins to his fancy. He told his sister 
that he would feel rather lonely after this great change 
in her life; but then the day would come for him, too, to 



THE DUEL 257 

get married. In fact, he was thinking already of the 
time when there would be no one left to fight with in 
Europe, and the epoch of wars would be over. "I 
expect then," he wrote, *'to be within measurable dis- 
tance of a marsha/s baton, and you will be an experi- 
enced married woman. You shall look out a wife for 
me. I will be, probably, bald by then, and a little 
blasS. I shall require a young girl, pretty of course, and 
with a large fortune, which should help me to close my 
glorious career in the splendour befitting my exalted 
rank." He ended with the information that he had 
just given a lesson to a worrying, quarrelsome fellow 
who imagined he had a grievance against him. "But 
if you, in the depths of your province," he continued, 
"ever hear it said that your brother is of a quarrelsome 
disposition, don't you believe it on any account. There 
is no saying what gossip from the army may reach your 
innocent ears. Whatever you hear you may rest as- 
sured that your ever-loving brother is not a duellist." 
Then Captain D 'Hubert crumpled up the blank sheet of 
paper headed with the words "This is my last will and 
testament," and threw it in the fire with a great laugh 
at himself. He didn't care a snap for what that lunatic 
could do. He had suddenly acquired the conviction 
that his adversary was utterly powerless to affect his 
life in any sort of way; except, perhaps, in the way of 
putting a special excitement into the delightful, gay 
intervals between the campaigns. 



258 A SET OF SIX 

From this on there were, however, to be no peaceful 
intervals in the career of Captain D'Hubert. He saw 
the fields of Eylau and Friedland, marched and counter- 
marched in the snow, in the mud, in the dust of Polish 
plains, picking up distinction and advancement on all 
the roads of Northeastern Europe. Meantime Captain 
Feraud, dispatched southward with his regiment, made 
unsatisfactory war in Spain. It was only when the 
preparations for the Russian campaign began that he 
was ordered north again. He left the country of man- 
tillas and oranges without regret. 

The first signs of a not unbecoming baldness added 
to the lofty aspect of Colonel D 'Hubert's forehead. 
This feature was no longer white and smooth as in the 
days of his youth; the kindly open glance of his blue 
eyes had grown a little hard as if from much peering 
through the smoke of battles. The ebony crop on 
Colonel Feraud's head, coarse and crinkly like a cap of 
horsehair, showed many silver threads about the tem- 
ples. A detestable warfare of ambushes and inglorious 
surprises had not improved his temper. The beaklike 
curve of his nose was unpleasantly set off by a deep fold 
on each side of his mouth. The round orbits of his eyes 
radiated wrinkles. More than ever he recalled an 
irritable and staring bird — something like a cross be- 
tween a parrot and an owl. He was still extremely 
outspoken in his dislike of "intriguing fellows." He 
seized every opportunity to state that he did not pick 



THE DUEL 259 

up his rank in the anterooms of marshals. The un- 
lucky persons, civil or military, who, with an intention 
of being pleasant begged Colonel Feraud to tell them 
how he came by that very apparent scar on the forehead, 
were astonished to find themselves snubbed in various 
ways, some of which were simply rude and others mys- 
teriously sardonic. Young officers were warned kindly 
by their m.ore experienced comrades not to stare openly 
at the colonel's scar. But indeed an officer need have 
been very young in his profession not to have heard the 
legendary tale of that duel originating in a mysterious, 
unforgivable offence. 

Ill 

The retreat from Moscow submerged all private 
feelings in a sea of disaster and misery. Colonels 
without regiments, D 'Hubert and Feraud carried the 
musket in the ranks of the so-called sacred battalion — a 
battalion recruited from officers of all arms who had no 
longer any troops to lead. 

In that battalion promoted colonels did duty as 
sergeants; the generals captained the companies; a 
marshal of France, Prince of the Empire, commanded 
the whole. All had provided themselves with muskets 
picked up on the road, and with cartridges taken from 
the dead. In the general destruction of the bonds of 
discipline and duty holding together the companies, the 
battalions, the regiments, the brigades, and divisions of 



2C0 A SET OF SIX 

an armed host, this body of men put its pride in pre- 
serving some semblance of order and formation. The 
only stragglers were those who fell out to give up to the 
frost their exhausted souls. They plodded on, and their 
passage did not disturb the mortal silence of the plains, 
shining with the livid 1 ght of snows under a sky the 
colour of ashes. Whirlwinds ran along the fields, broke 
against the dark column, enveloped it in a turmoil of 
flying icicles, and subsided, disclosing it creeping on its 
tragic way without the swing and rhythm of the mili- 
tary pace. It struggled onward, the men exchanging 
neither word nor looks; whole ranks marched touching 
elbow, day after day, and never raising their eyes from 
the ground, as if lost in despairing reflections. In the 
dumb, black forests of pines the cracking of overloaded 
branches was the only sound they heard. Often from 
daybreak to dusk no one spoke in the whole column. 
It was like a macabre march of struggling corpses 
toward a distant grave. Only an alarm of Cossacks 
could restore to their eyes a semblance of martial resolu- 
tion. The battalion faced about and deployed, or 
formed square under the endless fluttering of snowflakes. 
A cloud of horsemen with fur caps on their heads 
levelled long lances, and yelled "Hurrah! Hurrah!" 
around their menacing immobility whence, with muf- 
fled detonations, hundreds of dark red flames darted 
through the air thick with falling snow. In a very few 
moments the horsemen would disappear, as if carried 



THE DUEL 2GI 

off yelling in the gale, and the sacred battalion standing 
still, alone in the blizzard, heard only the howling of 
the wind, whose blasts searched their very hearts. 
Then, with a cry or two of Vive VEmpereurl it would 
resume its march, leaving behind a few lifeless bodies 
lying huddled up, tiny black specks on the white im- 
mensity of the snows. 

Though often marching in the ranks, or skirmishing 
in the woods side by side, the two olBScers ignored each 
other; this not so much from inimical intention as from 
a very real indifference. All their store of moral en- 
ergy was expended in resisting the terrific enmity of 
nature and the crushing sense of irretrievable disaster. 
To the last they counted among the most active, the 
least demoralized of the battalion; their vigorous vital- 
ity invested them both with the appearance of an 
heroic pair in the eyes of their comrades. And they 
never exchanged more than a casual word or two, ex- 
cept one day, when skirmishing in front of the battalion 
against a worrying attack of cavalry, they found them- 
selves cut off in the woods by a small party of Cossacks, 
A score of fur-capped, hairy horsemen rode to and fro, 
brandishing their lances in ominous silence; but the 
two officers had no mind to lay down their arms, and 
Colonel Feraud suddenly spoke up in a hoarse, growling 
voice, bringing his firelock to the shoulder: "You 
take the nearest brute. Colonel D'Hubert; I'll settle 
the next one. I am a better shot than you are." 



262 A SET OF SIX 

Colonel D'Hubert nodded over his levelled musket. 
Their shoulders were pressed against the trunk of a 
large tree; on their front enormous snowdrifts protected 
them from a direct charge. Two carefully aimed shots 
rang out in the frosty air, two Cossacks reeled in their 
saddles. The rest, not thinking the game good enough, 
closed round their wounded comrades and galloped 
away out of range. The two officers managed to rejoin 
their battalion halted for the night. During that after- 
noon they had leaned upon each other more than once, 
and toward the end. Colonel D'Hubert, whose long 
legs gave him an advantage in walking through soft 
snow, peremptorily took the musket of Colonel Feraud 
from him and carried it on his shoulder, using his own 
as a staff. 

On the outskirts of a village half buried in the snow 
an old wooden barn burned with a clear and an immense 
flame. The sacred battalion of skeletons, muffled in 
rags, crowded greedily the windward side, stretching 
hundreds of numbed, bony hands to the blaze. Nobody 
had noted their approach. Before entering the circle of 
light playing on the sunken, glassy-eyed, starved faces, 
Colonel D'Hubert spoke in his turn: 

"Here's your musket. Colonel Feraud. I can walk 
better than you." 

Colonel Feraud nodded, and pushed on toward the 
warmth of the fierce flames. Colonel D'Hubert was 
more dehberate, but not the less bent on getting a place 



THE DUEL 263 

in the front rank. Those they shouldered aside tried to 
greet with a faint cheer the reappearance of the two 
indomitable compan'ons in activity and endurance. 
Those manly qualities had never perhaps received a 
higher tribute than this feeble acclamation. 

This is the faithful record of speeches exchanged 
during the retreat from Moscow by Colonels Feraud 
and D'Hubert. Colonel Feraud's taciturnity was the 
outcome of concentrated rage. Short, hairy, black- 
faced, with layers of grime and the thick sprouting of a 
wiry beard, a frost-bitten hand wrapped up in filthy 
rags carried in a sling, he accused fate of unparalleled 
perfidy toward the sublime Man of Destiny. Colonel 
D'Hubert, his long moustaches pendent in icicles on 
each side of his cracked blue lips, his eyelids inflamed 
with the glare of snows, the principal part of his cos- 
tume consisting of a sheepskin coat looted with difficulty 
from the frozen corpse of a camp follower found in an 
abandoned cart, took a more thoughtful view of events. 
His regularly handsome features, now reduced to mere 
bony lines and fleshless hollows, looked out of a woman's 
black velvet hood, over which was rammed forcibly a 
cocked hat picked up under the wheels of an empty 
army fourgon, which must have contained at one time 
some general officer's luggage. The sheepskin coat 
being short for a man of his inches ended very high up, 
and the skin of his legs blue with the cold showed 
through the tatters of his nether garments. This 



264 A SET OF SIX 

under the circumstances provoked neither jeers nor 
pity. No one cared how the next man felt or looked. 
Colonel D'Hubert himself, hardened to exposure, suf- 
fered mainly in his self-respect from the lamentable 
indecency of his costume. A thoughtless person may 
think that with a whole host of inanimate bodies be- 
strewing the path of retreat there could not have been 
much difficulty in supply ng the deficiency. But to 
loot a pair of breeches from a frozen corpse is not so easy 
as it may appear to a mere theorist. It requires time 
and labour. You must rema n behind while your 
companions march on. Colonel D'Hubert had his 
scruples as to falling out. Once he had stepped aside 
he could not be sure of ever rejoin ng his battalion; and 
the ghastly intimacy of a wrestling match with the 
frozen dead opposing the unyield ng rigidity of iron 
to your violence was repugnant to the delicacy of his 
feelings. Luckily, one day, grubbing in a mound of 
snow between the huts of a village in the hope of finding 
there a frozen potato or some vegetable garbage he 
could put between his long and shaky teeth. Colonel 
D'Hubert uncovered a couple of mats of the sort 
Russian peasants use to line the sides of their carts with. 
These, beaten free of frozen snow, bent about his 
elegant person and fastened solidly round his waist, 
made a bellshaped nether garment, a sort of stiff petti- 
coat, which rendered Colonel D'Hubert a perfectly 
decent, but a much more noticeable figure than before. 



TPIE DUEL 265 

Thus accoutred, he continued to retreat, never 
doubting of his personal escape, but full of other mis- 
givings. The early buoyancy of his belief in the future 
was destroyed. If the road of glory led through such 
unforeseen passages, he asked himself — for he was 
reflective — whether the guide was altogether trust- 
worthy. It was a patriotic sadness, not unmingled 
with some personal concern, and quite unlike the un- 
reasoning indignation against men and things nursed 
by Colonel Feraud. Recruiting his strength in a little 
German to^Ti for three weeks. Colonel D 'Hubert was 
surprised to discover within himself a love of repose. 
His returning vigour was strangely pacific in its aspira- 
tions. He meditated silently upon this bizarre change 
of mood. No doubt many of his brother oflScers of 
field rank went through the same moral experience. 
But these were not the times to talk of it. In one of his 
letters home Colonel D'Hubert wrote: "All your plans, 
my dear Leonie, for marrying me to the charming girl 
you have discovered in your neighbourhood, seem 
farther off than ever. Peace is not yet. Europe wants 
another lesson. It will be a hard task for us, but it 
shall be done, because the Emperor is invincible." 

Thus wrote Colonel D'Hubert from Pomerania to 
his married sister L6onie, settled in the south of France. 
And so far the sentiments expressed would not have 
been disowned by Colonel Feraud, who wrote no let- 
ters to anybody, whose father had been in life an illit- 



^66 A SET OF SIX 

erate blacksmith, who had no sister or brother, and 
whom no one desired ardently to pair off for a life of 
peace with a charming young girl. But Colonel D'Hu- 
bert's letter contained also some philosophical gener- 
alities upon the uncertainty of all personal hopes, when 
bound up entirely with the prestigious fortune of one 
incomparably great it is true, yet still remaining but a 
man in his greatness. This view would have appeared 
rank heresy to Colonel Feraud. Some melancholy 
forebodings of a military kind, expressed cautiously, 
would have been pronounced as nothing short of high 
treason by Colonel Feraud. But Leonie, the sister of 
Colonel D 'Hubert, read them with profound satisfac- 
tion, and, folding the letter thoughtfully, remarked to 
herself that "Armand was likely to prove eventually 
a sensible fellow." Since her marriage into a Southern 
family she had become a convinced believer in the re- 
turn of the legitimate king. Hopeful and anxious, she 
offered prayers night and morning, and burnt candles 
in churches for the safety and prosperity of her brother. 
She had every reason to suppose that her prayers 
were heard. Colonel D'Hubert passed through Lutzen, 
Bautzen, and Leipsic losing no limb, and acquiring 
additional reputation. Adapting his conduct to the 
needs of that desperate time, he had never voiced his 
misgivings. He concealed them under a cheerful 
courtesy of such pleasant character that people were 
inclined to ask themselves with wonder whether Colonel 



THE DUEL 267 

D'Hubert was aware of any disasters. Not only his 
manners, but even his glances remained untroubled. 
The steady amenity of his blue eyes disconcerted all 
grumblers, and made despair itself pause. 

This bearing was remarked favourably by the Em- 
peror himself; for Colonel D'Hubert, attached now to the 
Major-General's staff, came on several occasions under 
the imperial eye. But it exasperated the higher strung 
nature of Colonel Feraud. Passing through Magdeburg 
on service, this last allowed himself, while seated gloomily 
at dinner with the Commandant de Place, to say of his life- 
long adversary : * ' This man does not love the Emperor, ' ' 
and his words were received by the other guests in pro- 
found silence. Colonel Feraud, troubled in his conscience 
at the atrocity of the aspersion, felt the need to back 
it up by a good argument. "I ought to know him," he 
cried, adding some oaths. " One studies one's adversary. 
I have met him on the ground half a dozen times, as all 
the army knows. What more do you want? If that 
isn't opportunity enough for any fool to size up his 
man, may the devil take me if I can tell what is." And 
he looked around the table obstinate and sombre. 

Later on in Paris, while extremely busy reorganizing 
his regiment. Colonel Feraud learned that Colonel 
D'Hubert had been made a general. He glared at his 
informant incredulously, then folded his arms and 
turned away muttering: "Nothing surprises me on the 
part of that man." 



A SET OF SIX 

And aloud he added, speaking over his shoulder: 
"You would oblige me greatly by telling General 
D'Hubert at the first opportunity that his advancement 
saves him for a time from a pretty hot encounter. I 
was only waiting for him to turn up here." 

The other oflScer remonstrated : 

"Could you think of it, Colonel Feraud, at this time, 
when every life should be consecrated to the glory and 
safety of France?" 

But the strain of unhappiness caused by military re- 
verses had spoiled Colonel Feraud's character. Like 
many other men, he was rendered wicked by misfortune. 

"I cannot consider General D'Hubert's existence of 
any account either for the glory or safety of France," 
he snapped viciously. "You don't pretend, perhaps, to 
know him better than I do — I who have met him half a 
dozen times on the ground — do you.''" 

His interlocutor, a young man, was silenced. Colonel 
Feraud walked up and down the room. 

"This is not the time to mince matters," he said. "I 
can't believe that that man ever loved the Emperor. 
He picked up his general's stars under the boots of 
Marshal Berthier. Very well. I'll get mine in another 
fashion, and then we shall settle this business which 
has been dragging on too long." 

General D'Hubert, informed indirectly of Colonel 
Feraud's attitude, made a gesture as if to put aside an 
importunate person. His thoughts were solicited by 



THE DUEL 269 

graver cares. He had had no time to go and see his 
family. His sister, whose royahst hopes were rising 
higher every day, though proud of her brother, re- 
gretted his recent advancement in a measure, because 
it put on him a prominent mark of the usurper's favour, 
which later on could have an adverse influence upon 
his career. He wrote to her that no one but an inveter- 
ate enemy could say he had got his promotion by favour. 
As to his career, he assured her that he looked no 
farther forward into the future than the next battle- 
field. 

Beginning the campaign of France in this dogged 
spirit, General D'Hubert was wounded on the second 
day of the battle under Laon. While being carried off 
the field he heard that Colonel Feraud, promoted this 
moment to general, had been sent to replace him at the 
head of his brigade. He cursed his luck impulsively, 
not being able at first glance to discern all the ad- 
vantages o a nasty wound. And yet it was by this 
heroic method that Providence was shaping his future. 
Travelling slowly south to his sister's country home, 
under the care of a trusty old servent. General D'Hu- 
bert was spared the humiliating contacts and the 
perplexities of conduct which assailed the men of Napo- 
leonic empire at the moment of its downfall. Lying 
in his bed, with the windows of his room open wide to 
the sunshine of Provence, he perceived the undisguised 
aspect of the blessing conveyed by that jagged fragment 



270 A SET OF SIX 

of a Prussian shell, which, kilhng his horse and ripping 
open his thigh, saved him from an active conflict with his 
conscience. After the last fourteen years spent sword 
in hand in the saddle, and with the sense of his duty 
done to the very end. General D'Hubert found resig- 
nation an easy virtue. His sister was delighted with 
his reasonableness. "I leave myself altogether in your 
hands, my dear Leonie," he had said to her. 

He was still laid up when, the credit of his brother- 
in-law's family being exerted on his behalf, he received 
from the royal government not only the confirmation 
of his rank, but the assurance of being retained on the 
active list. To this was added an unlimited conva- 
lescent leave. The unfavourable opinion entertained 
of him in Bonapartist circles, though it rested on nothing 
more solid than the unsupported pronouncement of 
General Feraud, was directly responsible for General 
D'Hubert's retention on the active list. As to General 
Feraud, his rank was confirmed, too. It was more than 
he dared to expect; but Marshal Soult, then Minister 
of War to the restored king, was partial to officers who 
had served in Spain. Only not even the marshal's 
protection could secure for him active employment. 
He remained irreconcilable, idle, and sinister. He 
sought in obscure restaurants the company of other 
half-pay officers who cherished dingy but glorious old 
tricolour cockades in their breast-pockets, and buttoned 
with the forbidden eagle buttons their shabby uniforms. 



THE DUEL 271 

declaring themselves too poor to afiford the expense of 
the prescribed change. 

The triumphant return from Elba, a historical fact 
as marvellous and incredible as the exploits of some 
mythological demi-god, found General D'Hubert still 
quite unable to sit a horse. Neither could he walk 
very well. These disabilities, which Madame Leonie 
accounted most lucky, helped to keep her brother out 
of all possible mischief. His frame of mind at that 
time, she noted with dismay, became very far from 
reasonable. This general officer, still menaced by the 
loss of a limb, was discovered one night in the stables of 
the chateau by a groom, who, seeing a light, raised an 
alarm of thieves. His crutch was lying half-buried in 
the straw of the litter, and the General was hopping on 
one leg in a loose box around a snorting horse he was 
trying to saddle. Such were the effects of imperial magic 
upon a calm temperament and a pondered mind. Beset 
in the light of stable lanterns, by the tears, entreaties, 
indignation, remonstrances, and reproaches of his family, 
he got out of the difficult situation by fainting away there 
and then in the arms of his nearest relatives, and was 
carried off to bed. Before he got out of it again, the 
second reign of Napoleon, the Hundred Days of fever- 
ish agitation and supreme effort, passed away like a 
terrifying dream. The tragic year of 1815, begun in 
the trouble and unrest of consciences, was ending in 
vengeful proscriptions. 



27^2 A SET OF SIX 

How General Feraud escaped the clutches of the 
Special Commission and the last offices of a firing squad 
he never knew himself. It was partly due to the 
subordinate position he was assigned during the Hun- 
dred Days. The Emperor had never given him ac- 
tive command, but had kept him busy at the cavalry 
depot in Paris, mounting and dispatching hastily drilled 
troopers into the field. Considering this task as un- 
worthy of his abilities, he had discharged it with no 
offensively noticeable zeal; but for the greater part he 
was saved from the excesses of royalist reaction by the 
interference of General D 'Hubert. 

This last, still on convalescent leave, but able now 
to travel, had been dispatched by his sister to Paris 
to present himself to his legitimate sovereign. As no 
one in the capital could possibly know anything of the 
episode in the stable, he was received there with dis- 
tinction. Military to the very bottom of his soul, the 
prospect of rising in his profession consoled him from 
finding himself the butt of Bonapartist malevolence, 
which pursued him with a persistence he could not 
account for. All the rancour of that embittered and 
persecuted party pointed to h m as the man who had 
never loved the Emperor — a sort of monster essentially 
worse than a mere betrayer. 

General D'Hubert shrugged his shoulders without 
anger at this ferocious prejudice. Rejected by his old 
friends, and mistrusting profoundly the advances of 



THE DUEL 273 

Royalist society, the young and handsome General (he 
was barely forty) adopted a manner of cold, punctilious 
courtesy, which at the merest shadow of an intended 
slight passed easily into harsh haughtiness. Thu-, 
prepared, General D'Hubert went about his affairs iu 
Paris feeling inwardly very happy wuth the peculiar up- 
lifting happiness of a man very much in love. The 
charming girl looked out by his sister had come upon 
the scene, and had conquered him in the thorough 
manner in which a young girl by merely existing in his 
sight can make a man of forty her own. They were 
going to be married as soon as General D'Hubert had 
obtained his official nomination to a promised command. 
One afternoon, sitting on the terrasse of the CafS 
Tortonif General D'Hubert learned from the conver- 
sation of two strangers occupying a table near his own 
that General Feraud, included in the batch of superior 
officers arrested after the second return of the king, was 
in danger of passing before the Special Commission. 
Living all his spare moments, as is frequently the case 
with expectant lovers, a day in advance of reality, and 
in a state of bestarred hallucination, it required nothing 
less than the name of his perpetual antagonist pro- 
nounced in a loud voice to call the youngest of Napo- 
leon's generals away from the mental contemplation 
of his betrothed. He looked round. The strangers 
wore civilian clothes. Lean and weather-beaten, lolling 
back in their chairs, they scowled at people with moody 



274 A SET OF SIX 

and defiant abstraction from under their hats pulled low 
over their eyes. It was not difiicult to recognize them 
for two of the compulsorily retired officers of the Old 
Guard. As from bravado or carelessness they chose to 
speak in loud tones, General D 'Hubert, who saw no 
reason why he should change his seat, heard every word. 
They did not seem to be the personal friends of Gen- 
eral Feraud. His name came up amongst others. 
Hearing it repeated, General D'Hubert's tender antici- 
pations of a domestic future adorned with a woman's 
grace were traversed by the harsh regret of his warhke 
past, of that one long, intoxicating clash of arms, unique 
in the magnitude of its glory and disaster — the marvel- 
lous work and the special possession of his own generation. 
He felt an irrational tenderness toward his old adver- 
sary, and appreciated emotionally the murderous ab- 
surdity their encounter had introduced into his life. It 
was like an additional pinch of spice in a hot dish. He 
remembered the flavour with sudden melancholy. He 
would never taste it again. It was all over. "I fancy 
it was being left lying in the garden that had exasper- 
ated him so against me from the first," he thought in- 
dulgently. 

The two strangers at the next table had fallen silent 
after the third mention of General Feraud's name. Pres- 
ently the elder of the two, speaking again in a bitter 
tone, affirmed that General Feraud's account was 
settled. And why? Simply because he was not like 



THE DUEL 275 

some bigwigs who loved only themselves. The Royal- 
ists knew they could never make anything of him. He 
loved The Other too well. 

The Other was the man of St. Helena. The two 
officers nodded and touched glasses before they drank 
to an impossible return. Then the same who had 
spoken before remarked with a sardonic laugh: "His 
adversary showed more cleverness." 

"What adversary.'^" asked the younger, as if puzzled. 

"Don't you know.'^ They were two hussars. At 
each promotion they fought a duel. Haven't you 
heard of a duel going on ever since 1801.'*" 

The other had heard of the duel, of course. Now he 
understood the allusion. General Baron D'Hubert 
would be able now to enjoy his fat king's favour in 
peace. 

"Much good it may do him," mumbled the elder. 
"They are both brave men. I never saw this D'Hu- 
bert — a sort of intriguing dandy, I am told. But I can 
well believe what I've heard Feraud say of him — that 
he never loved the Emperor." 

They rose and went away. 

General D'Hubert experienced the horror of a som- 
nambulist who wakes up from a complacent dream of 
activity to find himself walking on a quagmire. A pro- 
found disgust of the ground over which he was making 
his way overcame him. Even the image of the charm- 
ing girl was swept from his view in the flood of moral 



276 A SET OF SIX 

distress. Everything he had ever been or lioped to be 
would taste of bitter ignominy unless he could manage to 
save General Feraud from the fate which threatened so 
many braves. Tinder the impulse of this almost 
morbid need to attend to the safety of his adversary. 
General D'Hubert worked so well with his hands and 
feet (as the French saying is), that in less than twenty- 
four hours he found means of obtaining an extraordinary 
private audience from the Minister of Police. 

General Baron D'Hubert was shown in suddenly 
without preliminaries. In the dusk of the Minister's 
cabinet, behind the forms of writing-desk, chairs, and 
tables, between two bunches of wax candles blazing in 
sconces, he beheld a figure in a gorgeous coat posturing 
before a tall mirror. The old conventionnel Fouch6, 
Senator of the Empire, traitor to every man, to every 
principle and motive of human conduct, Duke of Ot- 
ranto, and the wily artizan of the second Restoration, 
was trying the fit of a court suit in which his young and 
accomplished j^anc^e had declared her intention to have 
his portrait painted on porcelain. It was a caprice, a 
charming fancy which the first Minister of Police of 
the second Restoration was anxious to gratify. For 
that man, often compared in wiliness of conduct to a 
fox, but whose ethical side could be worthily symbol- 
lized by nothing less emphatic than a skunk, was as 
much possessed by his love as General D'Hubert him- 
self. 



THE DUEL 277 

Startled to be discovered thus by the blunder of a 
servant, he met this little vexation with the character- 
istic impudence which had served his turn so well in the 
endless intrigues of his self-seeking career. Without 
altering his attitude a hair's breadth, one leg in a silk 
stocking advanced, his hand twisted over his left 
shoulder, he called out calmly: "This way. General. 
Pray approach. Well? I am all attention." 

While General D'Hubert, ill at ease as if one of his 
own little weaknesses had been exposed, presented his 
request as shortly as possible, the Duke of Otranto went 
on feeling the fit of his collar, settling the lapels before 
the glass, and buckling his back in an effort to behold 
the set of the gold-embroidered coat-skirts behind. His 
still face, his attentive eyes, could not have expressed a 
more complete interest in those matters if he had been 
alone. 

"Exclude from the operations of the Special Court a 
certain Feraud, Gabriel Florian, General of brigade of 
the promotion of 1814?" he repeated, in a slightly 
wondering tone, and then turned away from the glass. 
*' Why exclude him precisely? " 

"I am surprised that your Excellency, so competent 
in the evaluation of men of his time, should have 
thought worth while to have that name put down on 
the list." 

"A rabid Bonapartist ! " 

"So is every grenadier and every trooper of the army. 



278 A SET OF SIX 

as your Excellency well knows. And the individuality 
of General Feraud can have no more weight than that 
of any casual grenadier. He is a man of no mental 
grasp, of no capacity whatever. It is inconceivable 
that he should ever have any influence." 

"He has a well-hung tongue, though," interjected 
Fouche. 

"Noisy, I admit, but not dangerous." 

"I will not dispute with you. I know next to nothing 
of him. Hardly his name, in fact." 

"And yet your Excellency has the presidency of the 
Commission charged by the king to point out those who 
were to be tried," said General D'Hubert, with an 
emphasis which did not miss the minister's ear. 

"Yes, General," he said, walking away into the dark 
part of the vast room, and throwing himself into a deep 
armchair that swallowed him up, all but the soft gleam 
of gokl embroideries and the pallid patch of the face — 
"yes. General. Take this chair there." 

General D'Hubert sat down. 

"Yes, General," continued the arch-master in the 
arts of intrigue and betrayals, whose duplicity, as if at 
times intolerable to his self-knowledge, found relief in 
bursts of cynical openness. "I did hurry on the forma- 
tion of the proscribing Commission, and I took its pres- 
idency. And do you know why? Simply from fear 
that if I did not take it quickly into my hands my 
own name would head the Ust of the proscribed. Such 



THE DUEL 279 

are the times in which we live. But I am minister of 
the king yet, and I ask you plainly why I should take 
the name of this obscure Feraud ofiF the list? You 
wonder how his name got there! Is it possible that you 
should know men so little? My dear General, at the 
very first sitting of the Commission names poured on us 
like rain off the roof of the Tuileries. Names! We 
had our choice of thousands. How do you know the 
the name of this Feraud, whose life or death don't 
matter to France, does not keep out some other name?" 

The voice out of the armchair stopped. Opposite 
General D'Hubert sat still, shadowy and silent. Only 
his sabre clinked slightly. The voice in the armchair 
began again: "And we must try to satisfy the exi- 
gencies of the Allied Sovereigns, too. The Prince de 
Talleyrand told me only yesterday that Nesselrode had 
informed him officially of His Majesty the Emperor 
Alexander's dissatisfaction at the small number of ex- 
amples the Government of the king intends to make — 
especially amongst military men. I tell you this con- 
fidentially." 

"Upon my word!" broke out General D'Hubert, 
speaking through his teeth, "if your Excellency deigns 
to favour me with any more confidential information I 
don't know what I will do. It's enough to break one's 
sword over one's knee, and fling the pieces . . .'* 

"What government you imagined yourself to be 
serving?" interrupted the minister sharply. 



280 A SET OF SIX 

After a short pause the crestfallen voice of General 
D'Hubert answered, "The Government of France." 

"That's paying your conscience off with mere words, 
General. The truth is that you are serving a govern- 
ment of returned exiles, of men who have been without 
country for twenty years. Of men also who have just got 
over a very bad and humiliating fright. . . . Have 
no illusions on that score." 

The Duke of Otranto ceased. He had relieved him- 
self, and had attained his object of stripping some self- 
respect off that man who had inconveniently discovered 
him posturing in a gold-embroidered court costume 
before a mirror. But they were a hot-headed lot in the 
army; it occurred to him that it would be inconvenient 
if a well-disposed general officer, received in audience 
on the recommendation of one of the Princes, were to 
do something rashly scandalous directly after a private 
interview with the minister. In a changed tone he put 
a question to the point : "Your relation — this Feraud?" 

"No. No relation at all." 

" Intimate friend? " 

"Intimate . . . yes. There is between us an 
intimate connection of a nature which makes it a point 
of honour with me to try . . ." 

The minister rang a bell without waiting for the end 
of the phrase. When the servant had gone out, after 
bringing in a pair of heavy silver candelabra for the 
writing-desk, the Duke of Otranto rose, his breast glis- 



THE DUEL 281 

tening all over with gold in the strong light, and taking 
a piece of paper out of a drawer, held it in his hand 
ostentatiously while he said with persuasive gentle- 
ness: "You must not speak of breaking your sword 
across your knee, General. Perhaps you would never 
get another. The Emperor will not return this time. 
. . . Diahle dliomme! There was just a moment, 
here in Paris, soon after Waterloo, when he frightened 
me. It looked as though he were ready to begin all over 
again. Luckily one never does begin all over again, 
really. You must not think of breaking your sword. 
General." 

General D'Hubert, looking on the ground, moved 
slightly his hand in a hopeless gesture of renunciation. 
The Minister of Police turned his eyes away from him, 
and scanned deliberately the paper he had been holding 
up all the time. 

"There are only twenty general officers selected to be 
made an example of. Twenty. A round number. 
And let's see, Feraud. . . . Ah, he's there. Gabriel 
Florian. Parfaitement. That's your man. Well, there 
will be only nineteen examples made now." 

General D'Hubert stood up feeling as though he 
had gone through an infectious illness. "I must beg 
your Excellency to keep my interference a profound 
secret. I attach the greatest importance to his never 
learning . . ." 

"Who is going to inform him, I should like to know?" 



282 A SET OF SIX 

said Fouch6, raising his eyes curiously to General D'Hu- 
bert's tense, set face. "Take one of these pens, and 
run it through the name yourself. This is the only 
list in existence. If you are careful to take up enough 
ink no one will be able to tell what was the name struck 
out. But, far exemple, I am not responsible for what 
Clarke will do with him afterward. If he persists in 
being rabid he will be ordered by the Minister of War to 
reside in some provincial town under the supervision cf 
the police." 

A few days later General D'Hubert was saying to his 
sister, after the first greetings had been got over: "Ah, 
my dear Leonie! it seemed to me I couldn't get away 
from Paris quick enough." 

"Effect of love," she suggested, with a malicious 
smile. 

*'And horror," added General D'Hubert, with pro- 
found seriousness. " I have nearly died there of . . . 
of nausea." 

His face was contracted with disgust. And as his 
sister looked at him attentively, he continued: "I have 
had to see Fouche. I have had an audience. I have 
been in his cabinet. There remains with one, who had 
the misfortune to breathe the air of the same room with 
that man, a sense of diminished dignity, an uneasy feel- 
ing of being not so clean, after all, as one hoped one was. 
. . . But you can't understand." 

She nodded quickly several times. She understood 



THE DUEL 283 

very well on the contrary. She knew her brother 
thoroughly, and liked him as he was. Moreover, the 
scorn and loathing of mankind were the lot of the 
Jacobin Fouche, who, exploiting for his own advantage 
every weakness, every virtue, every generous illusion of 
mankind, made dupes of his whole generation, and died 
obscurely as Duke of Otranto. 

*'My dear Armand," she said compassionately, "what 
could you want from that man?" 

"Nothing less than a life," answered General D'Hu- 
bert. "And I've got it. It had to be done. But I feel 
yet as if I could never forgive the necessity to the man I 
had to save." 

General Feraud, totally unable (as is the case with 
most of us) to comprehend what was happening to him, 
received the Minister of War's order to proceed at once 
to a small town of Central France with feelings whose 
natural expression consisted in a fierce rolling of the eye 
and savage grinding of the teeth. The passing away of 
the state of war, the only condition of society he had 
ever known, the horrible view of a world at peace, 
frightened him. He went away to his little town firmly 
convinced that this could not last. There he was in- 
formed of his retirement from the army, and that his 
pension (calculated on the scale of a colonel's rank) was 
made dependent on the correctness of his conduct, and 
on the good reports of the police. No longer in the 
army ! He felt suddenly strange to the earth, like a dis- 



284 A SET OF SIX 

embodied spirit. It was impassible to exist. But at 
first he reacted from sheer increduhty. This could not 
be. He waited for thunder, earthquakes, natural cat- 
aclysms; but nothing happened. The leaden weight of 
an irremediable idleness descended upon General Fe- 
raud, who having no resources within himself sank 
into a state of awe-inspiring hebetude. He haunted 
the streets of the little town, gazing before him with 
lack-lustre eyes, disregarding the hats raised on his 
passage; and people, nudging each other as he went by, 
whispered: "That's poor General Feraud. His heart 
is broken. Behold how he loved the Emperor." 

The other living wreckage of Napoleonic tempest 
clustered round General Feraud with infinite respect. 
He, himself, imagined his soul to be crushed by grief. 
He suffered from quickly succeeding impulses to weep, 
to howl, to bite his fists till blood came, to spend days 
on his bed with his head thrust under the pillow; but 
these arose from sheer ennui, from the anguish of an 
immense, indescribable, inconceivable boredom. His 
mental inability to grasp the hopeless nature of his case 
as a whole saved him from suicide. He never even 
thought of it once. He thought of nothing. But his 
appetite abandoned him, and the difficulty he experi- 
enced to express the overwhelming nature of his feel- 
ings (the most furious swearing could do no justice to it) 
induced gradually a habit of silence — a sort of death to 
a southern temperament. 



THE DUEL 285 

Great, therefore, was the sensation amongst the 
anciens militaires frequenting a certain httle cafe full of 
flies, when one stuffy afternoon "that poor General 
Feraud" let out suddenly a volley of formidable curses. 

He had been sitting quietly in his own privileged 
corner looking through the Paris gazettes with just as 
much interest as a condemned man on the eve of execu- 
tion could be expected to show in the news of the day. 
A cluster of martial, bronzed faces, amongst which 
there was one lacking an eye, and another the tip of a 
nose frost-bitten in Russia, surrounded him anxiously. 

"What's the matter, GeneraLf^" 

General Feraud sat erect, holding the folded news- 
paper at arm's length in order to make out the small 
print better. He read to himself, over again, fragments 
of the intelligence which had caused, what may be 
called, his resurrection. 

''We are informed that General D'Hubert, till now on 
sick leave in the south, is to be called to the command of 
the Fifth Cavalry brigade in . . ." 

He dropped the paper stonily. . . . "Called to 
the command" . . . and suddenly gave his fore- 
head a mighty slap. "I had almost forgotten him," he 
muttered, in a conscience-stricken tone. 

A deep-chested veteran shouted across the cafe: 
"Some new villainy of the Government, General.'*" 

"The villainies of these scoundrels," thundered 
General Feraud, " are innumerable. One more one less ! " 



286 A SET OF SIX 

. . . He lowered his tone. "But I will set good 
order to one of them at least." 

He looked all round the faces. "There's a pomaded, 
curled staff officer, the darling of some of the marshals 
who sold their father for a handful of English gold. He 
will find out presently that I am alive yet," he declared, 
in a dogmatic tone. "However, this is a private affair. 
An old affair of honour. Bah! Our honour does not 
matter. Here we are driven off with a split ear like a 
lot of cast troop horses — good only for a knacker's 
yard. But it would be hke striking a blow for the 
Emperor. . . . Messieurs, I shall require the assist- 
ance of two of you." 

Every man moved forward. General Feraud, deeply 
touched by this demonstration, called with visible 
emotion upon the one-eyed veteran cuirassier and the 
officer of the Chasseurs a Cheval who had left the tip of 
his nose in Russia. He excused his choice to the others. 

"A cavalry affair this — you know." 

He was answered with a varied chorus of ^'Parfaite- 
merit mon General. . . . Cest juste. . . . Par- 
bleu, c^est connu. . . ." Everybody was satisfied. 
The three lett the cafe together, followed by cries of 
*' Bonne chance.'' 

Outside they linked arms, the General in the middle. 
The three rusty cocked hats worn en hataille with a 
sinister forward slant barred the narrow street nearly 
right across. The overheated little town of gray stones 



THE DUEL 287 

and red tiles was drowsing away its provincial afternoon 
under a blue sky. The loud blows of a cooper hooping 
a cask reverberated regularly between the houses. The 
General dragged his left foot a little in the shade of the 
walls. 

"This damned winter of 1813 has got into my bones 
for good. Never mind. We must take pistols, that's 
all. A little lumbago. We must have pistols. He's 
game for my bag. My eyes are as keen as ever. You 
should have seen me in Russia picking off the dodging 
Cossacks with a beastly old infantry musket. I have 
a natural gift for firearms." 

In this strain General Feraud ran on, holding up his 
head, with owlish eyes and rapacious beak. A mere 
fighter all his life, a cavalry man, a sabreiir, he conceived 
war with the utmost simplicity, as, in the main, a massed 
lot of personal contests, a sort of gregarious duelling^ 
And here he had in hand a war of his own. He revived. 
The shadow of peace passed away from him like the 
shadow of death. It was the marvellous resurrection 
of the named Feraud, Gabriel Florian, engage volontaire 
of 1793, General of 1814, buried without ceremony by 
means of the service order signed by the War Minister 
of the second Restoration. 

IV 

No man succeeds in everything he undertakes. In 
that sense we are all failures. The great point is not to 



288 A SET OF SIX 

fail in ordering and sustaining the effort of our life. In 
this matter vanity is what leads us astray. It hurries us 
into situations from which we must come out damaged; 
whereas pride is our safeguard, by the reserve it im- 
poses on the choice of our endeavour as much as by 
the virtue of its sustaining power. 

General D 'Hubert was proud and reserved. He had 
not been damaged by his casual love affairs, successful 
or otherwise. In his war-scarred body his heart at 
forty remained unscratched. Entering with reserve 
into his sister's matrimonial plans, he had felt himself 
falling irremediably in love as one falls off a roof. He 
was too proud to be frightened. Indeed, the sensation 
was too delightful to be alarming. 

The experience of a man of forty is a much more 
serious thing than the inexperience of a youth of twenty, 
for it is not helped out by the rashness of hot blood. 
The girl was mysterious, as young girls are by the mere 
effect of their guarded ingenuity; and to him the mysteri- 
ousness of that young girl appeared exceptional and 
fascinating. But there was nothing mysterious about 
the arrangements of the match which Madame Leonie 
had promoted. There was nothing peculiar, either. It 
was a very appropriate match, commending itself ex- 
tremely to the young lady's mother (the father was 
dead) and tolerable to the young lady's uncle — an 
old emigre lately returned from Germany, and per- 
vading, cane in hand, a lean ghost of the ancien 



THE DUEL 289 

rSgime, the garden walks of the young lady's ancestral 
home. 

General D 'Hubert was not the man to be satisfied 
merely with the woman and the fortune — when it came 
to the point. His pride (and pride aims always at true 
success) would be satisfied with nothing short of love. 
But as true pride excludes vanity, he could not imagine 
any reason why this mysterious creature with deep and 
brilliant eyes of a violet colour should have any feeling 
for him warmer than indifference. The young lady (her 
name was Adele) baffled every attempt at a clear under- 
standing on that point. It is true that the attempts 
were clumsy and made timidly, because by then Gen- 
eral D 'Hubert had become acutely aware of the number 
of his years, of his wounds, of his many moral inperfec- 
tions, of his secret unworthiness — and had incidentally 
learned by experience the meaning of the word funk. 
As far as he could make out she seemed to imply that, 
with an unbounded confidence in her mother's affection 
and sagacity, she felt no unsurmountable dislike for the 
person of General D'Hubert; and that this was quite 
sufficient for a well-brought-up young lady to begin 
married life upon. This view hurt and tormented the 
pride of General D'Hubert. And yet he asked himself, 
with a sort of sweet despair, what more could he expect? 
She had a quiet and luminous forehead. Her violet eyes 
laughed while the lines of her lips and chin remained 
composed in admirable gravity. All this was set off by 



290 A SET OF SIX 

such a glorious mass of fair hair, by a complexion so 
marvellous, by such a grace of expression, that General 
D'Hubert really never found the opportunity to ex- 
amine with sufficient detachment the lofty exigencies of 
his pride. In fact he became shy of that line of inquiry 
since it had led once or twice to a crisis of solitary 
passion in which it was borne upon him that he loved 
her enough to kill her rather than lose her. From such 
passages, not unknown to men of forty, he would come 
out broken, exhausted, remorseful, a little dismayed. 
He derived, however, considerable comfort from the 
quietest practice of sitting now and then half the night 
by an open window and meditating upon the wonder of 
her existence, like a believer lost in the mystic con- 
templation of his faith. 

It must not be supposed that all these variations of 
his inward state were made manifest to the world. 
General D'Hubert found no difficulty in appearing 
wreathed in smiles. Because, in fact, he was very happy. 
He followed the established rules of his condition, send- 
ing over flowers (from his sister's garden and hot-houses), 
early every morning, and a little later following himself 
to lunch with his intended, her mother, and her emigre 
uncle. The middle of the day was spent in strolling 
or sitting in the shade. A watchful deference, trem- 
bling on the verge of tenderness, was the note of their in- 
tercourse on his side — with a playful turn of the phrase 
concealing the profound trouble of his whole being 



THE DUEL 291 

caused by her inaccessible nearness. Late in the after- 
noon General D'Hubert walked home between the 
fields of vines, sometimes intensely miserable, some- 
times supremely happy, sometimes pensively sad; but 
always feeling a special intensity of existence, that 
elation common to artists, poets, and lovers — to men 
haunted by a great passion, a noble thought, or a new 
vision of plastic beauty. 

The outward world at that time did not exist with 
any special distinctness for General D'Hubert. One 
evening, however, crossing a ridge from which he could 
see both houses. General D'Hubert became aware of 
two figures far down the road. The day had been divine. 
The festal decoration of the inflamed sky lent a gentle 
glow to the sober tints of the southern land. The gray 
rocks, the brown fields, the purple, undulating distances 
harmonized in luminous accord, exhaled already the 
scents of the evening. The two figures down the road 
presented themselves like two rigid and wooden sil- 
houettes all black on the ribbon of white dust. General 
D'Hubert made out the long, straight, military capotes 
buttoned closely right up to the black stocks, the cocked 
hats, the lean, carven brown countenances — old soldiers 
— vieilles moustaches! The taller of the two had a 
black patch over one eye; the other's hard, dry coun- 
tenance presented some bizarre, disquieting peculiarity, 
which on nearer approach proved to be the absence of 
the tip of the nose. Lifting their hands with one move- 



292 A SET OF SIX 

meut to salute the slightly lame civilian walking with a 
thick stick, they inquired for the house where the Gen- 
eral Baron D'Hubert lived, and what was the best way 
to get speech with him quietly. 

"If you think this quiet enough," said General D'Hu- 
bert, looking round at the vine-fields, framed in 
purple lines, and dominated by the nest of gray and 
drab walls of a village clustering around the top of a 
conical hill, so that the blunt church tower seemed but 
the shape of a crowning rock — "if you think this spot 
quiet enough, you can speak to him at once. And I 
beg you, comrades, to speak openly, with perfect con- 
fidence." 

They stepped back at this, and raised again their 
hands to their hats with marked ceremoniousness. 
Then the one with the chipped nose, speaking for both, 
remarked that the matter was confidential enough, and 
to be arranged discreetly. Their general quarters were 
established in that village over there, where the infernal 
clodhoppers — damn their false, Royalist hearts ! — looked 
remarkably cross-eyed at three unassuming military 
men. For the present he should only ask for the name 
of General D'Hubert's friends. 

"What friends.''" said the astonished General D'Hu- 
bert, completely off the track. "I am staying with my 
brother-in-law over there." 

"Well, he will do for one," said the chipped veteran. 

"We're the friends of General Feraud," interjected 



THE DUEL 293 

the other, who had kept silent till then, only glowering 
with his one eye at the man who had never loved the 
Emperor. That was something to look at. For even 
the gold-laced Judases who had sold him to the English, 
the marshals and princes, had loved him at some time 
or other. But this man had never loved the Emperor. 
General Feraud had said so distinctly. 

General D 'Hubert felt an inward blow in his chest. 
For an infinitesimal fraction of a second it was as if the 
spinning of the earth had become perceptible with 
an awful, slight rustle in the eternal stillness of space. 
But this noise of blood in his ears passed off at once. 
Involuntarily he murmured, "Feraud! I had forgotten 
his existence." 

"He's existing at present, very uncomfortably, it is 
true, in the infamous inn of that nest of savages up 
there," said the one-eyed cuirassier dryly. " We arrived 
in your parts an hour ago on post horses. He's await- 
ing our return with impatience. There is hurry, you 
know. The General has broken the ministerial order 
to obtain from you the satisfaction he's entitled to 
by the laws of honour, and naturally he's anxious 
to have it all over before the gendarmerie gets on his 
scent." 

The other elucidated the idea a little further: "Get 
back on the quiet — you understand.'' Phitt. No one 
the wiser. We have broken out, too. Your friend the 
king would be glad to cut off our scurvy pittances at the 



294 A SET OF SIX 

first chance. It's a risk. But honour before every- 
thing." 

General D'Hubert had recovered his powers of 
speech. *'So you come here Hke this along the road to 
invite me to a throat-cutting match with that — that. 
. . ." A laughing sort of rage took possession of 
him. "Ha! ha! ha! ha!" 

His fists on his hips, he roared without restraint, 
while they stood before him lank and straight, as 
though they had been shot up with a snap through a 
trapdoor in the ground. Only four-and-twenty months 
ago the masters of Europe, they had already the air of 
antique ghosts, they seemed less substantial in their 
faded coats than their own narrow shadows falling so 
black across the white road: the military and grotesque 
shadows of twenty years of war and conquests. They 
had an outlandish appearance of two imperturbable 
bonzes of the religion of the sword. And General D 'Hu- 
bert, also one of the ex-masters of Europe, laughed at 
these serious phantoms standing in his way. 

Said one, indicating the laughing General with a jerk 
of the head: "A merry companion, that." 

"There are some of us that haven't smiled from the 
day The Other went away," remarked his comrade. 

A violent impulse to set upon and beat those un- 
substantial wraiths to the ground frightened General 
D'Hubert. He ceased laughing suddenly. His desire 
now was to get rid of them, to get them away from his 



THE DUEL 295 

sight quickly before he lost control of himself. He 
wondered at the fury he felt rising in his breast. But 
he had no time to look into that peculiarity just then. 

"I understand your wish to be done with me as 
quickly as possible. Don't let us waste time in empty 
ceremonies. Do you see that wood there at the foot of 
that slope? Yes, the wood of pines. Let us meet there 
to-morrow at sunrise. I will bring with me my sword 
or my pistols, or both if you like." 

The seconds of General Feraud looked at each other. 

"Pistols, General," said the cuirassier. 

*'So be it. Au revoir — to-morrow morning. Till 
then let me advise you to keep close if you don't want 
the gendarmerie making inquiries about you before it 
gets dark. Strangers are rare in this part of the 
country." 

They saluted in silence. General D'Hubert, turning 
his back on their retreating forms, stood still in the 
middle of the road for a long time, biting his lower lip 
and looking on the ground. Then he began to walk 
straight before him, thus retracing his steps till he found 
himself before the park gate of his intended's house. 
Dusk had fallen. Motionless he stared through the 
bars at the front of the house, gleaming clear beyond 
the thickets and trees. Footsteps scrunched on the 
gravel, and presently a tall stooping shape emerged 
from the lateral alley following the inner side of the 
park wall. 



296 A SET OF SIX 

Le Chevalier de Valmassigue, uncle of the adorable 
Adele, ex-brigadier in the army of the Princes, book- 
binder in Altona, afterward shoemaker (with a great 
reputation for elegance in tlie fit of ladies' shoes) in an- 
other small German town, wore silk stockings on his lean 
shanks, low shoes with silver buckles, a brocaded waist- 
coat. A long-skirted coat, a la franqaise, covered loosely 
his thin bowed back. A small three-cornered hat rested 
on a lot of powdered hair, tied in a queue. 

^'Monsieur le Chevalier,'' called General D'Hubert 
softly. 

"What.f^ You here again, mon ami? Have you 
forgotten something.f^" 

"By heavens! that's just it. I have forgotten some- 
thing. I am come to tell you of it. No — outside. 
Behind this wall. It's too ghastly a thing to be let in 
at all where she lives." 

The Chevalier came out at once with that benevolent 
resignation some old people display toward the fugue 
of youth. Older by a quarter of a century than General 
D'Hubert, he looked upon him in the secret of his heart 
as a rather troublesome youngster in love. He had 
heard his enigmatical words very well, but attached no 
undue importance to what a mere man of forty so hard 
hit was likely to do or say. The turn of mind of the 
generation of Frenchmen grown up during the years of 
his exile was almost unintelligible to him. Their senti- 
ments appeared to him unduly violent, lacking fineness 



THE DUEL 297 

and measure, their language needlessly exaggerated. 
He joined calmly the General on the road, and they 
made a few steps in silence, the General trying to 
master his agitation, and get proper control of his voice. 

"It is perfectly true; I forgot something. I forgot 
till half an hour ago that I had an urgent affair of honour 
on my hands. It's incredible, but it is so ! " 

All was still for a moment. Then in the profound 
evening silence of the countryside the clear, aged voice 
of the Chevalier was heard trembling slightly. "Mon- 
sieur! That's an indignity." 

It was his first thought. The girl born during his 
exile, the posthumous daughter of his poor brother 
murdered by a band of Jacobins, had grown since his 
return very dear to his old heart, which had been starv- 
ing on mere memories of affection for so many years. 
"It is an inconceivable thing, I say! A man settles 
such affairs before he thinks of asking for a young girFs 
hand. Why! If you had forgotten for ten days longer, 
you would have been married before your memory re- 
turned to you. In my time men did not forget such 
tilings — nor yet what is due to the feelings of an inno- 
cent young woman. If I did not respect them myself, 
I would qualify your conduct in a way which you would 
not like." 

General D'Hubert relieved himself frankly by a groan. 
"Don't let that consideration prevent you. You run 
no risk of offending her mortally." 



298 A SET OF SIX 

But the old man paid no attention to this lover's 
nonsense. It's doubtful whether he even heard. " What 
is it?" he asked. "What's the nature of . . . ?" 

"Call it a youthful folly, Monsieur le Chevalier. An 
inconceivable, incredible result of . . ." He stopped 
short. "He will never believe the story," he thought. 
"He will only think I am taking him for a fool, and get 
offended." General D'Hubert spoke up again. "Yes, 
originating in youthful folly, it has become . . ." 

The Chevalier interrupted. "Well, then it must be 
arranged.'* 

"Arranged.?" 

"Yes, no matter at what cost to your amour propre. 
You should have remembered you were engaged. You 
forgot that, too, I suppose. And then you go and for- 
get your quarrel. It's the most hopeless exhibition of 
levity I ever heard of." 

"Good heavens, monsieur! You don't imagine I 
have been picking up this quarrel last time I was in 
Paris, or anything of the sort, do you.'^" 

"Eh! What matters the precise date of your insane 
conduct," exclaimed the Chevalier testily. "The prin- 
cipal thing is to arrange it." 

Noticing General D'Hubert getting restive and try- 
ing to place a w^ord, the old SmigrS raised his hand, 
and added with dignity, "I've been a soldier, too. I 
would never dare suggest a doubtful step to the 
man whose name my niece is to bear. I tell you that 



THE DUEL 299 

entre galants hommes an affair can always be ar- 
ranged." 

"But, saperlotte, Monsieur le Chevalier, it's fifteen or 
sixteen years ago. I was a lieutenant of hussars then." 

The old Chevalier seemed confounded by the vehe- 
mently despairing tone of this information. *'You 
were a lieutenant of hussars sixteen years ago!" he 
mumbled in a dazed manner. 

"Why, yes! You did not suppose I was made a 
general in my cradle like a royal prince." 

In the deepening purple twilight of the fields spread 
with vine leaves, backed by a low band of sombre 
crimson in the west, the voice of the old ex-oflScer in 
the army of the Princes sounded collected, punc- 
tiliously civil. 

"Do I dream .^ Is this a pleasantry.'* Or am I to 
understand that you have been hatching an affair of 
honour for sixteen years.''" 

"It has clung to me for that length of time. That is 
my precise meaning. The quarrel itself is not to be ex- 
plained easily. We met on the ground several times 
during that time, of course." 

"What manners! What horrible pervasion of man- 
liness! Nothing can account for such inhumanity but 
the sanguinary madness of the Revolution which has 
tainted a whole generation," mused the returned SmigrS 
in a low tone. "\\Tio's your adversary?" he asked a 
little louder. 



300 A SET OF SIX 

"My adversary? His name is Feraud." 

Shadowy in his tricorne and old-fashioned clothes, 
like a bowed, thin ghost of the ancien regime, the Chev- 
alier voiced a ghostly memory. "I can remember the 
feud about little Sophie Derval, between Monsieur de 
Brissac, Captain in the Bodyguards, and d'Anjorrant 
(not the pock-marked one, the other — the Beau d'An- 
jorrant, as they called him). They met three times in 
eighteen months in a most gallant manner. It was the 
fault of that little Sophie, too, who would keep on play- 
ing . . ." 

"This is nothing of the kind," interrupted General 
D'Hubert. He laughed a little sardonically. "Not at 
all so simple," he added. "Nor yet half so reasonable," 
he finished inaudibly between his teeth, and ground 
them with rage. 

After this sound nothing troubled the silence for a 
long time, till the Chevalier asked, without animation: 
"What is he— this Feraud .'" 

"Lieutenant of hussars, too — I mean he's a general. 
A Gascon. Son of a blacksmith, I believe." 

"There! I thought so. That Bonaparte had a 
special predilection for the canaille. I don't mean 
this for you, D'Hubert. You are one of us, though you 
have served this usurper, who . . ." 

"Let's leave him out of this," broke in General D'Hu- 
bert. 

The Chevalier shrugged his peaked shoulders. 



THE DUEL 301 

"Feraud of sorts. Offspring of a blacksmith and some 
village troll. See what comes of mixing yourself up 
with that sort of people." 

"You have made shoes yourself, Chevalier." 

"Yes. But I am not the son of a shoemaker. Neither 
are you, Monsieur D'Hubert. You and I have some- 
thing that your Bonaparte's princes, dukes, and mar- 
shals have not, because there's no power on earth that 
could give it to them," retorted the emigre, with the ris- 
ing animation of a man who has got hold of a hope- 
ful argument. "Those people don't exist — all these 
Ferauds. Feraud! ^Vhat is Feraud? A va-nu-pieds 
disguised into a general by a Corsican adventurer mas- 
querading as an emperor. There is no earthly reason for 
a D'Hubert to s'encanailler by a duel with a person of 
that sort. You can make your excuses to him perfectly 
well. And if the manant takes into his head to decline 
them, you may simply refuse to meet him." 

"You say I may do that.'^" 

"I do. With the clearest conscience." 

^'Monsieur le Chevalier I To what do you think you 
have returned from you emigration.'" 

This was said in such a startling tone that the old 
man raised sharply his bowed head, glimmering silvery 
white under the points of the little tricorne. For a time 
he made no sound. 

"God knows!" he said at last, pointing with a slow 
and grave gesture at a tall, roadside cross mounted on a 



302 A SET OF SIX 

block of stone, and stretching its arms of forged iron all 
black against the darkening red band in the sky — "God 
knows! If it were not for this emblem, which I re- 
member seeing on this spot as a child, I would wonder 
to what we who remained faithful to God and our king 
have returned. The very voices of the people have 
changed." 

"Yes, it is a changed France," said General D'Hubert. 
He seemed to have regained his calm. His tone was 
slightly ironic. "Therefore I cannot take your advice. 
Besides, how is one to refuse to be bitten by a dog that 
means to bite? It's impracticable. Take my word 
for it — Feraud isn't a man to be stayed by apologies or 
refusals. But there are other ways. I could, for in- 
stance, send a messenger with a word to the brigadier 
of the gendarmerie in Senlac. He and his two friends 
are liable to arrest on my simple order. It would make 
some talk in the army, both the organized and the dis- 
banded — especially the disbanded. All canaille! All 
once upon a time the companions in arms of Armand 
D'Hubert. But what need a D'Hubert care what 
people that don't exist may think. Or, better still, I 
might get my brother-in-law to send for the mayor of 
the village and give him a hint. No more would be 
needed to get the three 'brigands' set upon with flails 
and pitchforks and hunted into some nice, deep, wet 
ditch — and nobody the wiser! It has been done only 
ten miles from here to three poor devils of the disbanded 



THE DUEL 303 

Red Lancers of the Guard going to their homes. Wliat 
says your conscience, Chevalier? Can a D'Hubert do 
that thing to three men who do not exist? " 

A few stars had come out on the blue obscurity, clear 
as crystal, of the sky. The dry, thin voice of the Chev- 
alier spoke harshly: "Why are you telling me all 
this?" 

The General seized the withered old hand with a 
strong grip. "Because I owe you my fullest confidence. 
Who could tell Adele but you? You understand why I 
dare not trust my brother-in-law nor yet my own sister. 
Chevalier! I have been so near doing these things that 
I tremble yet. You don't know how terrible this duel 
appears to me. And there's no escape from it." 

He murmured after a pause, "It's a fatality," dropped 
the Chevalier's passive hand, and said in his ordinary 
conversational voice, "I shall have to go without seconds. 
If it is my lot to remain on the ground, you at least will 
know all that can be made known of this affair." 

The shadowy ghost of the ancien regime seemed to 
have become more bowed during the conversation. 
"How am I to keep an indifferent face this evening 
before these two women?" he groaned. "General! I 
find it very difficult to forgive you." 

General D'Hubert made no answer. 

"Is your cause good, at least?" 

"I am innocent." 

This time he seized the Chevalier's ghostly arm 



304 A SET OF SIX 

above the elbow, and gave it a mighty squeeze. "I 
must kill him!" he hissed, and opening his hand strode 
away down the road. 

The delicate attentions of his adoring sister had 
secured for the General perfect liberty of movement in 
the house where he was a guest. He had even his own 
entrance through a small door in one corner of the 
orangery. Thus he was not exposed that evening to 
the necessity of dissembling his agitation before the 
calm ignorance of the other inmates. He was glad of 
it. It seemed to him that if he had to open his lips he 
would break out into horrible and aimless imprecations, 
start breaking furniture, smashing china and glass. 
From the moment he opened the private door, and 
while ascending the twenty-eight steps of a winding 
staircase, giving access to the corridor on which his 
room opened, he went through a horrible and humiliat- 
ing scene in which an infuriated madman with blood- 
shot eyes and a foaming mouth played inconceivable 
havoc with everything inanimate that may be found in 
a well-appointed dining-room. When he opened the 
door of his apartment the fit was over, and his bodily 
fatigue was so great that he had to catch at the backs of 
the chairs while crossing the room to reach a low and 
broad divan on which he let himself fall heavily. His 
moral prostration was still greater. That brutality of 
feeling which he had known only when charging the 
enemy, sabre in hand, amazed this man of forty, who 



THE DUEL 305 

did not recognize in it the instinctive fury of his men- 
aced passion. But in his mental and bodily exhaustion 
this passion get cleared, distilled, refined into a senti- 
ment of melancholy despair at having, perhaps, to die 
before he had taught this beautiful girl to love him. 

That night. General D'Hubert stretched out on his 
back with his hands over his eyes, or lying on his breast 
with his face buried in a cushion, made the full pilgrim- 
age of emotions. Nauseating disgust at the absurdity 
of the situation, doubt of his own fitness to conduct his 
existence, and mistrust of his best sentiments (for what 
the devil did he want to go to Fouche for.') — he knew 
them all in turn. " I am an idiot, neither more nor less," 
he thought — "A sensitive idiot. Because I overheard 
two men talking in a cafe. ... I am an idiot afraid 
of lies — whereas in life it is only truth that matters." 

Several times he got up and, walking in his socks in 
order not to be heard by anybody downstairs, drank 
all the water he could find in the dark. And he tasted 
the torments of jealousy, too. She would marry some- 
body else. His very soul writhed. The tenacity of 
that Feraud, the awful persistence of that imbecile 
brute, came to him with the tremendous force of a relent- 
less destiny. General D'Hubert trembled as he put 
down the empty water ewer. "He will have me," he 
thought. General D 'Hubert was tasting every emotion 
that life has to give. He had in his dry mouth the faint 
sickly flavour of fear, not the excusable fear before a 



806 A SET OF SIX 

young girl's candid and amused glance, but the fear of 
death and the honourable man's fear of cowardice. 

But if true courage consists in going out to meet an 
odious danger from which our body, soul, and heart 
recoil together, General D 'Hubert had the opportunity 
to practise it for the first time in his life. He had 
charged exultingly at batteries and at infantry squares, 
and ridden with messages through a hail of bullets with- 
out thinking anything about it. His business now was 
to sneak out unheard, at break of day, to an obscure 
and revolting death. General D 'Hubert never hesi- 
tated. He carried two pistols in a leather bag which he 
slung over his shoulder. Before he had crossed the 
garden his mouth was dry again. He picked two 
oranges. It was only after shutting the gate after him 
that he felt a slight faintness. 

He staggered on, disregarding it, and after going a 
few yards regained the command of his legs. In the 
colourless and pellucid dawn the wood of pines detached 
its columns of trunks and its dark green canopy very 
clearly against the rocks of the gray hillside. He kept 
his eyes fixed on it steadily, and sucked at an orange as 
he walked. That temperamental good-humoured cool- 
ness in the face of danger which had made him an oflScer 
liked by his men and appreciated by his superiors was 
gradually asserting itself. It was like going into battle. 
Arriving at the edge of the wood, he sat down on a 
boulder, holding the other orange in his hand, and re- 



THE DUEL 307 

proached himself for coming so ridiculously early on 
the ground. Before very long, however, he heard the 
swishing of bushes, footsteps on the hard ground, and 
the sounds of a disjointed, loud conversation. A voice 
somewhere behind him said boastfully: "He's game for 
my bag." 

He thought to himself: "Here they are. ^Vhat's 
this about game. f^ Are they talking of me. f^" And be- 
coming aware of the other orange in his hand, he thought 
further: "These are very good oranges. Leonie's 
own tree. I may just as well eat this orange now in- 
stead of flinging it away." 

Emerging from a wilderness of rocks and bushes. 
General Feraud and his seconds discovered General 
D'Hubert engaged in peeling the orange. They stood 
still, waiting till he looked up. Then the seconds raised 
their hats, while General Feraud, putting his hands 
behind his back, walked aside a little way. 

"I am compelled to ask one of you, messieurs, to act 
forme. I have brought no friends. Will you.''" 

The one-eyed cuirassier said judicially: "That cannot 
be refused." 

The other veteran remarked: "It's awkward all the 
same." 

"Owing to the state of the people's minds in this 
part of the country there was no one I could trust safely 
with the object of your presence here," explained 
General D'Hubert urbanely. 



308 A SET OF SIX 

They saluted, looked round, and remarked both to- 
gether : 

"Poor ground." 

"It's unfit." 

"Why bother about ground, measurements, and so on. 
Let us simplify matters. Load the two pairs of pistols. 
I will take those of General Feraud, and let him take 
mine. Or, better still, let us take a mixed pair. One 
of each pair. Then let us go into the wood and shoot at 
sight, while you remain outside. We did not come here 
for ceremonies, but for war — war to the death. Any 
ground is good enough for that. If I fall, you must leave 
me where I lie and clear out. It wouldn't be healthy 
for you to be found hanging about here after that." 

It appeared after a short parley that General Feraud 
was willing to accept these conditions. While the 
seconds were loading the pistols, he could be heard 
whistling, and was seen to rub his hands with perfect 
contentment. He flung off his coat briskly, and Gen- 
eral D 'Hubert took off his own and folded it carefully 
on a stone. 

"Suppose you take your principal to the other side 
of the wood and let him enter exactly in ten minutes 
from now," suggested General D'Hubert calmly, but 
feeling as if he were giving directions for his own execu- 
tion. This, however, was liis last moment of weakness. 
**Wait. Let us compare watches first." 

He pulled out his own. The officer with the chipped 



THE DUEL 309 

nose went over to borrow the watch of General Feraud. 
They bent their heads over them for a time. 

"That's it. At four minutes to six by yours. Sevea 
to by mine." 

It was the cuirassier who remained by the side of 
General D 'Hubert, keeping his one eye fixed immovably 
on the white face of the watch he held in the palm 
of his hand. He opened his mouth, waiting for the 
beat of the last second long before he snapped out the 
word, " Avancez." 

General D'Hubert moved on, passing from the 
glaring sunshine of the Provengal morning into the cool 
and aromatic shade of the pines. The ground was clear 
between the reddish trunks, whose multitude, leaning 
at slightly different angles, confused his eye at first. It 
was like going into battle. The commanding quality 
of confidence in himself woke up in his breast. He was 
all to his affair. The problem was how to kill the ad- 
versary. Nothing short of that would free him from 
this imbecile nightmare. "It's no use wounding that 
brute," thought General D'Hubert. He was known as 
a resourceful officer. His comrades years ago used also 
to call him The Strategist. And it was a fact that he 
could think in the presence of the enemy. Whereas 
Feraud had been always a mere fighter — but a dead 
shot, unluckily. 

"I must draw his fire at the greatest possible range," 
said General D'Hubert to himself. 



SIO A SET OF SIX 

At that moment he saw something white moving far 
off between the trees — the shirt of his adversary. He 
stepped out at once between the trunks, exposing him- 
self freely; then, quick as lightning, leaped back. It 
had been a risky move, but it succeeded in its object. 
Almost simultaneously with the pop of a shot a small 
piece of bark chipped off by the bullet stung his ear 
painfully. 

General Feraud, with one shot expended, was getting 
cautious. Peeping round the tree, General D'Hubert 
could not see him at all. This ignorance of the foe's 
whereabouts carried with it a sense of insecurity. 
General D'Hubert felt himself abominably exposed on 
his flank and rear. Again something white fluttered 
in his sight. Ha! The enemy was still on his front, 
then. He had feared a turning movement. But 
apparently General Feraud was not thinking of it. 
General D'Hubert saw him pass without special haste 
from one tree to another in the straight line of approach. 
With great firmness of mind General D'Hubert stayed 
his hand. Too far yet. He knew he was no marks- 
man. His must be a waiting game — to kill. 

Wishing to take advantage of the greater thickness 
of the trunk, he sank down to the ground. Extended 
at full length, head on to his enemy, he had his person 
completely protected. Exposing himself would not do 
now, because the other was too near by this time. A 
conviction that Feraud would presently do something 



THE DUEL 311 

rash was like balm to General D'Hubert's soul. But to 
keep his chin raised off the ground was irksome, and not 
much use, either. He peeped round, exposing a fraction 
of his head with dread, but really with little risk. His 
enemy, as a matter of fact, did not expect to see any- 
thing of him so far down as that. General D'Hubert 
caught a fleeting view of General Feraud shifting trees 
again with deliberate caution. "He despises my shoot- 
ing," he thought, displaying that insight into the mind 
of his antagonist wliich is of such great help in winning 
battles. He was confirmed in his tactics of immobility. 
"If I could only watch my rear as well as my front!" he 
thought anxiously, longing for the impossible. 

It required some force of character to lay his pistols 
down; but, on a sudden impulse, General D'Hubert did 
this very gently — one on each side of him. In the army 
he had been looked upon as a bit of a dandy because he 
used to shave and put on a clean shirt on the days of 
battle. As a matter of fact he had always been very 
careful of his personal appearance. In a man of nearly 
forty, in love with a young and charming girl, this 
praiseworthy self-respect may run to such little weak- 
nesses as, for instance, being provided with an elegant 
little leather folding-case containing a small ivory 
comb, and fitted with a piece of looking-glass on the 
outside. General D'Hubert, his hands being free, felt 
in his breeches pockets for that implement of innocent 
vanity excusable in the possessor of long silky mous- 



312 A SET OF SIX 

taches. He drew it out, and then with the utmost 
coolness and promptitude turned himself over on his 
back. In this new attitude, his head a little raised, hold- 
ing the little looking-glass just clear of his tree, he 
squinted into it with his left eye, while the right kept a 
direct watch on the rear of his position. Thus was 
proved Napoleon's saying, that "for a French soldier, 
the word impossible does not exist." He had the right 
tree nearly filling the field of his little mirror. 

*'If he moves from behind it," he reflected with satis- 
faction, "I am bound to see his legs. But in any case 
he can't come upon me unawares." 

And sure enough he saw the boots of General Feraud 
flash in and out, eclipsing for an instant everything else 
reflected in the little mirror. He shifted its position 
accordingly. But having to form his judgment of the 
change from that indirect view, he did not realize that 
now his feet and a portion of his legs were in plain sight 
of General Feraud 

General Feraud had been getting gradually impressed 
by the amazing cleverness with which his enemy was 
keeping cover. He had spotted the right tree with 
bloodthirsty precision. He was absolutely certain of 
it. And yet he had not been able to glimpse as much 
as the tip of an ear. As he had been looking for it at 
the height of about five feet ten inches from the ground, 
it was no great wonder — but it seemed very wonderful 
to General Feraud. 



THE DUEL 313 

The first view of these feet and legs determined a 
rush of blood to his head. He literally staggered be- 
hind his tree, and had to steady himself against it with 
his hand. The other was lying on the ground, then! 
On the ground! Perfectly still, too! Exposed! What 
could it mean.'' . . . The notion that he had 
knocked over his adversary at the first shot entered 
then General Feraud's head. Once there it grew with 
every second of attentive gazing, overshadowing every 
other supposition — irresistible, triumphant, ferocious. 

"What an ass I was to think I could have missed 
him," he muttered to himself. "He was exposed e7i 
■pleiri — the fool! — for quite a couple of seconds." 

General Feraud gazed at the motionless limbs, the last 
vestiges of surprise fading before an unbounded admi- 
ration of his own deadly skill with the pistol. 

"Turned up his toes! By the god of war, that was a 
shot! " he exulted mentally. " Got it through the head, 
no doubt, just where I aimed, staggered behind that tree, 
rolled over on his back and died." 

And he stared! He stared, forgetting to move, al- 
most awed, almost sorry. But for nothing in the 
world would he have had it undone. Such a shot! — 
such a shot! Rolled over on his back and died! 

For it was this helpless position, lying on the back, 
that shouted its direct evidence at General Feraud! 
It never occurred to him that it might have been de- 
liberately assumed by a hving man. It was inconceiv- 



314 A SET OF SIX 

able! It was beyond the range of sane supposition. 
There was no possibility to guess the reason for it. And 
it must be said, too, that General D 'Hubert's turned- 
up feet looked thoroughly dead. General Feraud ex- 
panded his lungs for a stentorian shout to his seconds, 
but, from what he felt to be an excessive scrupulous- 
ness, refrained for a while. 

"I will just go and see first whether he breathes yet," 
he mumbled to himself, leaving carelessly the shelter of 
his tree. This move was immediately perceived by the 
resourceful General D'Hubert. He concluded it to be 
another shift, but when he lost the boots out of the field 
of the mirror he became uneasy. General Feraud had 
only stepped a little out of the line, but his adversary 
could not possibly have supposed him walking up with 
perfect unconcern. General D'Hubert, beginning to 
wonder at what had become of the other, was taken 
unawares so completely that the first warning of danger 
consisted in the long, early-morning shadow of his enemy 
falling aslant on his outstretched legs. He had not even 
heard a footfall on the soft ground between the trees! 

It was too much even for his coolness. He jumped 
up thoughtlessly, leaving the pistols on the ground. 
The irresistible instinct of an average man (unless totally 
paralyzed by discomfiture) would have been to stoop 
for his weapons, exposing himself to the risk of being 
shot down in that position. Instinct, of course, is irre- 
flective. It is its very definition. But it may be an 



THE DUEL 315 

inquiry worth pursuing whether in reflective mankind 
the mechanical promptings of instinct are not affected 
by the customary mode of thought. In his young 
days, Armand D 'Hubert, the reflective, promising 
officer, had emitted the opinion that in warfare one 
should "never cast back on the lines of a mistake." 
This idea, defended and developed in many discussions, 
had settled into one of the stock notions of his brain, 
had become a part of his mental individuality. Whether 
it had gone so inconceivably deep as to affect the dic- 
tates of his instinct, or simply because, as he himself 
declared afterward, he was "too scared to remember 
the confounded pistols," the fact is that General D 'Hu- 
bert never attempted to stoop for them. Instead of 
going back on his mistake, he seized the rough trunk with 
both hands, and swung himself behind it with such im- 
petuosity that, going right round in the very flash and 
report of the pistol-shot, he reappeared on the other 
side of the tree face to face with General Feraud. This 
last, completely unstrung by such a show of agility on 
the part of a dead man, was trembling yet. A very 
faint mist of smoke hung before his face which had an 
extraordinary aspect, as if the lower jaw had come un- 
hinged. 

"Not missed!" he croaked hoarsely from the depths 
of a dry throat. 

This sinister sound loosened the spell that had fallen 
on General D'Hubert's senses. "Yes, missed — d. bout 



316 A SET OF SIX 

portant,^' he heard himself saying, almost before he had 
recovered the full command of his faculties. The re- 
vulsion of feeling was accompanied by a gust of homi- 
cidal fury, resuming in its violence the accumulated 
resentment of a lifetime. For years General D'Hubert 
had been exasperated and humiliated by an atrocious 
absurdity imposed upon him by this man's savage 
caprice. Besides, General D'Hubert had been in this 
last instance too unwilling to confront death for the re- 
action of his anguish not to take the shape of a desire to 
kill. "And I have my two shots to fire yet," he added 
pitilessly. 

General Feraud snapped-to his teeth, and his face 
assumed an irate, undaunted expression. "Go on!" 
he said grimly. 

These would have been his last words if General 
D'Hubert had been holding the pistols in his hands. 
But the pistols were lying on the ground at the foot of a 
pine. General D'Hubert had the second of leisure neces- 
sary to remember that he had dreaded death not as a man, 
but as a lover; not as a danger, but as a rival; not as a 
foe to life, but as an obstacle to marriage. And behold! 
there was the rival defeated! — utterly defeated, crushed, 
done for! 

He picked up the weapons mechanically, and, instead 
of firing them into General Feraud's breast, he gave ex- 
pression to the thought uppermost in his mind, "You 
will fight no more duels now." 



THE DUEL 317 

His tone of leisurely, ineffable satisfaction was too 
much for General Feraud's stoicism. "Don't dawdle, 
then, damn you for a cold-blooded staff-coxcomb!" he 
roared out suddenly, out of an impassive face held 
erect on a rigidly still body. 

General D'Hubert uncocked the pistols carefully. 
This proceeding was observed with mixed feelings by 
the other general. "You missed me twice," the victor 
said coolly, shifting both pistols to one hand; "the last 
time within a foot or so. By every rule of single com- 
bat your life belongs to me. That does not mean that I 
want to take it now." 

"I have no use for your forbearance," muttered 
General Feraud gloomily. 

"Allow me to point out that this is no concern of 
mine," said General D'Hubert, whose every word was 
dictated by a consummate delicacy of feeling. In 
anger he could have killed that man, but in cold blood 
he recoiled from humiliating by a show of generosity 
this unreasonable being — a fellow-soldier of the Grande 
ArmSe, a companion in the wonders and terrors of the 
great military epic. " You don't set up the pretension of 
dictating to me what I am to do with what's my own." 

General Feraud looked startled, and the other con- 
tinued: "You've forced me on a point of honour to keep 
my life at your disposal, as it were, for fifteen years. 
Very well. Now that the matter is decided to my ad- 
vantage, I am going to do what I like with your life on 



318 A SET OF SIX 

the same principle. You shall keep it at my disposal as 
long as I choose. Neither more nor less. You are on 
your honour till I say the word.'* 

"I am! But, sacrebleu! This is an absurd position 
for a General of the Empire to be placed in!" cried 
General Feraud, in accents of profound and dismayed 
conviction. "It amounts to sitting all the rest of my 
life with a loaded pistol in a drawer waiting for your 
word. It's — it's idiotic; I shall be an object of — of — 
derision." 

"Absurd.f^ — idioticf^ Do you think so?" queried 
General D'Hubert with sly gravity. "Perhaps. But 
I don't see how that can be helped. However, I am 
not likely to talk at large of this adventure. Nobody 
need ever know anything about it. Just as no one to 
this day, I believe, knows the origin of our quarrel. 
. . . Not a word more," he added hastily. "I can't 
really discuss this question with a man who, as far as I 
am concerned, does not exist." 

When the two duellists came out into the open, Gen- 
eral Feraud walking a little behind, and rather with the 
air of walking in a trance, the two seconds hurried 
toward them, each from his station at the edge of the 
wood. General D'Hubert addressed them, speaking 
loud and distinctly: "Messieurs, I make it a point of 
declaring to you solemnly, in the presence of General 
Feraud, that our difference is at last settled for good. 
You may inform all the world of that fact." 



THE DUEL 319 

"A reconciliation, after all!" they exclaimed to- 
gether. 

*'ReconcOiation? Not that exactly. It is something 
much more binding. Is it not so, General.'" 

General Feraud only lowered his head in sign of 
assent. The two veterans looked at each other. Later 
in the day, when they found themselves alone out of 
their moody friend's earshot, the cuirassier remarked 
suddenly: "Generally speaking, I can see with my one 
eye as far as most people; but this beats me. He won't 
say anything." 

"In this affair of honour I understand there has been 
from first to last always something that no one in the 
army could quite make out," declared the chasseur 
with the imperfect nose. "In mystery it began, in 
mystery it went on, in mystery it is to end, apparently." 

General D'Hubert walked home with long, hasty 
strides, by no means uplifted by a sense of triumph. 
He had conquered, yet it did not seem to him that he 
had gained very much by his conquest. The night 
before he had grudged the risk of his life which appeared 
to him magnificent, worthy of preservation as an 
opportunity to win a girl's love. He had known 
moments when, by a marvellous illusion, this love 
seemed to be already his, and his threatened life a still 
more magnificent opportunity of devotion. Now that 
his life was safe it had suddenly lost its special mag- 
nificence. It had acquired instead a specially alarming 



320 A SET OF SIX 

aspect as a snare for the exposure of unworthiness. As 
to the marvellous illusion of conquered love that had 
visited him for a moment in the agitated watches of the 
night, which might have been his last on earth, he com- 
prehended now its true nature. It had been merely a 
paroxysm of delirious conceit. Thus to this man, 
sobered by the victorious issue of a duel, life appeared 
robbed of its charm, simply because it was no longer 
menaced. 

Approaching the house from the back, through the 
orchard and the kitchen garden, he could not notice the 
agitation which reigned in front. He never met a 
single soul. Only while walking softly along the corridor, 
he became aware that the house was awake and more 
noisy that usual. Names of servants were being called 
out down below in a confused noise of coming and going. 
With some concern he noticed that the door of his own 
room stood ajar, though the shutters had not been 
opened yet. He had hoped that his early excursion 
would have passed unperceived. He expected to find 
some servant just gone in; but the sunshine filtering 
through the usual cracks enabled him to see lying on 
the low divan something bulky, which had the appear- 
ance of two women clasped in each other's arms. Tear- 
ful and desolate murmurs issued mysteriously from that 
appearance. General D'Hubert pulled open the near- 
est pair of shutters violently. One of the women then 
jumped up. It was his sister. She stood for a moment 



THE DUEL 321 

/fith her hair hanging down and her arms raised straight 
up above her head, and then flung herself with a stifled 
cry into his arms. He returned her embrace, trying at 
the same time to disengage himself from it. The other 
woman had not risen. She seemed, on the contrary, to 
cling closer to the divan, hiding her face in the cushions. 
Her hair was also loose; it was admirably fair. General 
D'Hubert recognized it with staggering emotion. Made- 
moiselle de Valmassigue! Adele! In distress! 

He became greatly alarmed, and got rid of his sister's 
hug definitely. Madame Leonie then extended her 
shapely bare arm out of her peignoir, pointing dramati- 
cally at the divan. "This poor, terrified child has 
rushed here from home, on foot, two miles — running all 
the way." 

"What on earth has happened?" asked General 
D'Hubert in a low, agitated voice. 

But Madame Leonie was speaking loudly. *'She 
rang the great bell at the gate and roused all the house- 
hold — we were all asleep yet. You may imagine what 
a terrible shock. . . . Adele, my dear child, sit 
up." 

General D 'Hubert's expression was not that of a 
man who "imagines" with facility. He did, however, 
fish out of the chaos of surmises the notion that his 
prospective mother-in-law had died suddenly, but only 
to dismiss it at once. He could not conceive the nature 
of the event or the catastrophe which could induce 



322 A SET OF SIX 

Mademoiselle de Valmassigue, living in a house full of 
servants, to bring the news over the fields herself, two 
miles, running all the way. 

"But why are you in this room?" he whispered, full 
of awe. 

"Of course, I ran up to see, and this child ... I 
did not notice it . . . she followed me. It's that 
absurd Chevalier," went on Madame Leonie, looking 
toward the divan. . . . "Her hair is all come 
down. You may imagine she did not stop to call her 
maid to dress it before she started. . . . Adele, my 
dear, sit up. . . . He blurted it all out to her at 
half-past five in the morning. She woke up early and 
opened her shutters to breathe the fresh air, and saw 
him sitting collapsed on a garden bench at the end of the 
great alley. At that hour — you may imagine ! And the 
evening before he had declared himself indisposed. She 
hurried on some clothes and flew down to him. One 
would be anxious for less. He loves her, but not very 
intelligently. He had been up all night, fully dressed, 
the poor old man, perfectly exhausted. He wasn't in a 
state to invent a plausible story. . . . What a con- 
fidant you chose there ! My husband was furious. He 
said : ' We can't interfere now.' So we sat down to wait. 
It was awful! And this poor child running with her 
hair loose over here publicly! She has been seen by 
some people in the fields. She has roused the whole 
household, too. It's awkward for her. Luckily you are 



THE DUEL 323 

to be married next week. . . . Adele, sit up. He 
has come home on his own legs. . . . We expected 
to see you coming on a stretcher, perhaps — what do I 
know.' Go and see if the carriage is ready. I must 
take this child home at once. It isn't proper for her to 
stay here a minute longer." 

General D 'Hubert did not move. It was as though 
he had heard nothing. INIadame Leonie changed her 
mind. "I will go and see myself," she cried. "I want 

also my cloak. Adele " she began, but did not add 

"sit up." She went out saying, in a very loud and 
cheerful tone: "I leave the door open." 

General D'Hubert made a movement toward the 
divan, but then Adele sat up, and that checked him 
dead. He thought, "I haven't washed this morning. 
I must look like an old tramp. There's earth on the 
back of my coat and pine-needles in my hair." It 
occurred to him that the situation required a good deal 
of circumspection on his part. 

*'I am greatly concerned, mademoiselle," he began 
vaguely, and abandoned that line. She was sitting up 
on the divan with her cheeks unusually pink and her 
hair, brilliantly fair, falling over her shoulders — which 
was a very novel sight to the General. He walked away 
up the room, and looking out of the window for safety, 
said: "I fear you must think I behaved like a madman," 
in accents of sincere despair. Then he spun round, and 
noticed that she had followed him with her eyes. They 



324 A SET OF SIX 

were not cast down on meeting his glance. And the ex- 
pression of her face was novel to him also. It was, one 
might have said, reversed. Those eyes looked at him 
with grave thoughtfulness, while the exquisite lines of 
her mouth seemed to suggest a restrained smile. This 
change made her transcendental beauty much less mys- 
terious, much more accessible to a man's comprehen- 
sion. An amazing ease of mind came to the General — 
and even some ease of manner. He walked down the 
room with as much pleasurable excitement as he would 
have found in walking up to a battery vomiting death, 
fire, and smoke; then stood looking down with smiling 
eyes at the girl whose marriage with him (next week) 
had been so carefully arranged by the wise, the good, 
the admirable Leonie. 

**Ah! mademoiselle," he said, in a tone of courtly 
regret, **if only I could be certain that you did not 
come here this morning, two miles, running all the way, 
merely from affection for your mother." 

He waited for an answer imperturbable but inwardly 
elated. It came in a demure murmur, eyelashes lowered 
with fascinating effect: "You must not be mechant as 
well as mad." 

And then General D 'Hubert made an aggressive 
movement toward the divan which nothing could check: 
That piece of furniture was not exactly in the line of the 
open door. But Madame Leonie, coming back wrapped 
up in a Ught cloak and carrying a lace shawl on her 



THE DUEL 325 

arm for Adele to hide her incriminating hair under, 
had a swift impression of her brother getting up from 
his knees. 

"Come along, my dear child," she cried from the 
doorway. 

The General, now himself again in the fullest sense, 
showed the readiness of a resourceful cavalry officer and 
the peremptoriness of a leader of men. "You don't 
expect her to walk to the carriage," he said indignantly. 
"She isn't fit. I shall carry her downstairs." 

This he did slowly, followed by his awed and respect- 
ful sister; but he rushed back like a whirlwind to wash off 
all the signs of the night of anguish and the morning of 
war, and to put on the festive garments of a conqueror 
before hurrying over to the other house. Had it not 
been for that. General D 'Hubert felt capable of mount- 
ing ahorse and pursuing his late adversary in order simply 
to embrace him from excess of happiness. "I owe it all 
to this stupid brute," he thought. "He has made 
plain in a morning what might have taken me years 
to find out — for I am a timid fool. No self-confidence 
whatever. Perfect coward. And the Chevalier! De- 
lightful old man!" General D'Hubert longed to em- 
brace him also. 

The Chevalier was in bed. For several days he was 
very unwell. The men of the Empire and the post- 
revolution young ladies were too much for him. He 
got up the day before the wedding, and, being curious by 



326 A SET OF SIX 

nature, took his niece aside for a quiet talk. He advised 
her to find out from her husband the true story of the 
affair of honour, whose claim, so imperative and so 
persistent, had led her to within an ace of tragedy. "It 
is right that his wife should be told. And next month 
or so will be your time to learn from him anything you 
want to know, my dear child." 

Later on, when the married couple came on a visit to 
the mother of the bride, Madame la Generale D'Hubert 
communicated to her beloved old uncle the true story 
she had obtained without any difficulty from her hus- 
band. 

The Chevalier listened with deep attention to the 
end, took a pinch of snuff, flicked the grains of tobacco 
from the frilled front of his shirt, and asked calmly, 
"And that's all it was!" 

"Yes, uncle," replied Madame la Generale, opening 
her pretty eyes very wide. "Isn't it funny? C'est 
insense — to think what men are capable of!" 

"H'm!" commented the old SmigrS. "It depends 
what sort of men. That Bonaparte's soldiers were 
savages. It is insense. As a wife, my dear, you must 
believe implicitly what your husband says." 

But to Leonie's husband the Chevalier confided his 
true opinion. "If that's the tale the fellow made up 
for his wife, and during the honeymoon, too, you may 
depend on it that no one will ever know now the secret 
of this affair." 



THE DUEL 327 

Considerably later still, General D 'Hubert judged 
the time come, and the opportunity propitious to write 
a letter to General Feraud. This letter began by dis- 
claiming all animosity. "I've never," wrote the Gen- 
eral Baron D 'Hubert, "wished for your death during 
all the time of our deplorable quarrel. Allow me," he 
continued, "to give you back in all form your forfeited 
life. It is proper that we two, who have been partners 
in so much military glory, should be friendly to each 
other pubhcly." 

The same letter contained also an item of domestic 
information. It was in reference to this last that Gen- 
eral Feraud answered from a little village on the banks 
of the Garonne, in the following words : 

"If one of your boy's names had been Napoleon — or 
Joseph — or even Joachim, I could congratulate you on 
the event with a better heart. As you have thought 
proper to give him the names of Charles Henri Armand, 
I am confirmed in my conviction that you never loved 
the Emperor. The thought of that sublime hero 
chained to a rock in the middle of a savage ocean makes 
life of so little value that I would receive with positive 
joy your instructions to blow my brains out. From 
suicide I consider myself in honour debarred. But I 
keep a loaded pistol in my drawer." 

Madame la Generale D'Hubert lifted up her hands 
in despair after perusing that answer. 

"You see.'* He wonH be reconciled," said her hus- 



328 A SET OF SIX 

band. "He must never, by any chance, be allowed to 
guess where the money cojnes from. It wouldn't do. 
He couldn't bear it." 

"You are a hrave homme, Armand," said Madame 
la Gen^rale appreciatively. 

"My dear, I had the right to blow his brains out; 
but as I didn't, we can't let him starve. He has lost his 
pension and he is utterly incapable of doing anything 
in the world for himself. We must take care of him, 
secretly, to the end of his days. Don't I owe him the 
most ecstatic moment of my life.'* . . . Ha! ha! ha! 
Over the fields, two miles, running all the way! I 
couldn't believe my ears! . . . But for his stupid 
ferocity, it would have taken me years to find you out. 
It's extraordinary how in one way or another this man 
has managed to fasten himself on my deeper feelings." 



A PATHETIC TALE 



IL CONDE 

*' Vedi Napoli e poi mori.** 

THE first time we got into conversation was in 
the National Museum in Naples, in the rooms 
on the ground floor containing the famous 
collection of bronzes from Herculaneum and Pompeii: 
that marvellous legacy of antique art whose delicate 
perfection has been preserved for us by the catastro- 
phic fury of a volcano. 

He addressed me first, over the celebrated Resting 
Hermes which we had been looking at side by side. He 
said the right things about the wholly admirable piece. 
Nothing profound. His taste was natural rather than 
cultivated. He had obviously seen many fine things in 
his life and appreciated them: but he had no jargon of a 
dilettante or the connoisseur. A hateful tribe. He 
spoke like a fairly intelligent man of the world, a per- 
fectly unaffected gentleman. 

We had known each other by sight for some few 
days past. Staying in the same hotel — good, but not 
extravagantly up to date — I had noticed him in the 
vestibule going in and out. I judged he was an old and 
valued client. The bow of the hotel-keeper was cordial 

8S1 



332 A SET OF SIX 

in its deference, and he acknowledged it with familiar 
courtesy. For the servants he was II Conde. There 
was some squabble over a man's parasol — yellow silk 
with white lining sort of thing — the waiters had dis- 
covered abandoned outside the dining-room door. Our 
gold-laced door-keeper recognized it and I heard him 
directing one of the lift boys to run after 7Z Conde with 
it. Perhaps he was the only Count staying in the hotel, 
or perhaps he had the distinction of being the Count far 
excellence, conferred upon him because of his tried fidel- 
ity to the house. 

Having conversed at the Museo — (and by the by he 
had expressed his dislike of the busts and statues of 
Roman emperors in the gallery of marbles: their faces 
were too vigorous, too pronounced for him) — having 
conversed already in the morning, I did not think I was 
intruding when in the evening, finding the dining-room 
very full, I proposed to share his little table. Judging 
by the quiet urbanity of his consent he did not think 
so either. His smile was very attractive. 

He dined in an evening waistcoat and a "smoking" 
(he called it so) with a black tie. All this of very good 
cut, not new — just as these things should be. He was, 
morning or evening, very correct in his dress. I have 
no doubt that his whole existence had been correct, 
well ordered and conventional, undisturbed by startling 
events. His white hair, brushed upward off a lofty 
forehead, gave him the air of an idealist, of an imagi- 



IL CONDE 333 

native man. His white moustache, heavy but carefully 
trimmed and arranged, was not unpleasantly tinted a 
golden yellow in the middle. The faint scent of some 
very good perfume, and of good cigars (that last odour 
quite remarkable to come upon in Italy) reached me 
across the table. It was in his eyes that his age showed 
most. They were a little weary with creased eyelids. 
He must have been sixty or a couple of years more. And 
he was communicative. I would not go so far as to 
call it garrulous — but distinctly communicative. 

He had tried various climates, of Abbazia, of the 
Riviera, of other places, too, he told me; but the only 
one which suited him was the climate of the Gulf of 
Naples. The ancient Romans, who, he pointed out to 
me, were men expert in the art of living, knew very well 
what they were doing when they built their villas on 
these shores, in Baise, in Vico, in Capri. They came 
down to this seaside in search of health, bringing with 
them their trains of mimes and flute-players to amuse 
their leisiu'e. He thought it extremely probable that the 
Romans of the higher classes were specially predisposed 
to painful rheumatic affections. 

This was the only personal opinion I heard him 
express. It was based on no special erudition. He 
knew no more of the Romans than an average informed 
man of the world is expected to know. He argued 
from personal experience. He had suffered himself 
from a painful and dangerous rheumatic affection till 



334 A SET OF SIX 

he found relief in this particular spot of southern 
Europe. 

This was three years ago, and ever since he had 
taken up his quarters on the shores of the gulf, either in 
one of the hotels in Sorrento or hiring a small villa in 
Capri. He had a piano, a few books: picked up tran- 
sient acquaintances of a day, week, or month in the 
stream of travellers from all Europe. One can imagine 
him going out for his walks in the streets and lanes, 
becoming known to beggars, shopkeepers, children, 
country people; talking amiably over the walls to the 
contadini — and coming back to his rooms or his villa to 
sit before the piano, with his white hair brushed up and 
his thick orderly moustache, "to make a little music for 
myself." And, of course, for a change there was Naples 
near by — life, movement, animation, opera. A little 
amusement, as he said, is necessary for health. Mimes 
and flute-players, in fact. Only, unlike the magnates 
of ancient Rome, he had no affairs of the city to call him 
away from these moderate delights. He had no affairs 
at all. Probably he had never had any grave affairs to 
attend to in his life. It was a kindly existence, with its 
joys and sorrows regulated by the course of Nature — 
marriages, births, deaths — ruled by the prescribed 
usages of good society and protected by the State. 

He was a widower; but in the months of July and 
August he ventured to cross the Alps for six weeks on a 
visit to his married daughter. He told me her name. 



EL CONDE 335 

It was that of a very aristocratic family. She had a 
castle — in Bohemia, I think. This is as near as I ever 
came to ascertaining his nationality. His own name, 
strangely enough, he never mentioned. Perhaps he 
thought I had seen it on the published list. Truth to 
say, I never looked. At any rate, he was a good 
European — he spoke four languages to my certain 
knowledge — and a man of fortune. Not of great for- 
tune, evidently and appropriately. I imagine that to 
be extremely rich would have appeared to him im- 
proper, outre — too blatant altogether. And obviously, 
too, the fortune was not of liis making. The making of 
a fortune cannot be acliieved without some roughness. 
It is a matter of temperament. His nature was too 
kindly for strife. In the course of conversation he 
mentioned liis estate quite by the way, in reference to 
that painful and alarming rheumatic affection. One 
year, staying incautiously beyond the Alps as late as 
the middle of September, he had been laid up for three 
months in that lonely country house with no one but his 
valet and the caretaking couple to attend to him. 
IBecause, as he expressed it, he "kept no establishment 
there." He had only gone for a couple of days to confer 
with his land agent. He promised himself never to be 
so imprudent in the future. The first weeks of Sep- 
tember would find him on the shores of his beloved gulf. 
Sometimes in travelling one comes upon such lonely 
men, whose onlv business is to wait for the unavoidable. 



336 A SET OF SIX 

Deaths and marriages have made a sohtude round them, 
and one really cannot blame their endeavours to make 
the waiting as easy as possible. As he remarked to me : 
"At my time of life freedom from physical pain is a very 
important matter." 

It must not be imagined that he was a wearisome 
hypochondriac. He was really much too well-bred to 
be a nuisance. He had an eye for the small weak- 
nesses of humanity. But it was a good-natured eye. 
He made a restful, easy, pleasant companion for the 
hours between dinner and bedtime. We spent three 
evenings together, and then I had to leave Naples in a 
hurry to look after a friend who had fallen seriously ill 
in Taormina. Having nothing to do, II Conde came to 
see me off at the station. I was somewhat upset, and 
his idleness was always ready to take a kindly form. 
He was by no means an indolent man. 

He went along the train peering into the carriages 
for a good seat for me, and then remained talking 
cheerily from below. He declared he would miss me 
that evening very much, and announced his intention of 
going after dinner to listen to the band in the public 
garden, the Villa Nazionale. He would amuse himself 
by hearing excellent music and looking at the best 
society. There would be a lot of people, as usual. 

I seem to see him yet — his raised face with a friendly 
smile under the thick moustaches, and his kind, fatigued 
eyes. As the train began to move, he addressed me in 



IL CONDE 337 

two languages: first in French, saying, ''Bon voyage"; 
then, in his very good, somewhat emphatic EngHsh, 
encouragingly, because he could see my concern: "All 
will — be — well — yet ! " 

My friend's illness having taken a decidedly favour- 
able turn, I returned to Naples on the tenth day. I 
cannot say I had given much thought to // Conde during 
my absence, but entering the dining-room I looked for 
him in his habitual place. I had an idea he might have 
gone back to Sorrento to his piano and his books and 
his fishing. He was great friends with all the boatmen, 
and fished a good deal with lines from a boat. But I 
made out his white head in a crowd of heads, and even 
from a distance noticed something unusual in his atti- 
tude. Instead of sitting erect, gazing all round with 
alert urbanity, he drooped over his plate. I stood 
opposite him for some time before he looked up, a little 
wildly, if such a strong word can be used in connection 
with his correct appearance. 

"Ah, my dear sir! Is it you.^" he greeted me. "I 
hope all is well." 

He was very nice about my friend. Indeed, he was 
always nice, with the niceness of people whose hearts 
are genuinely humane. But this time it cost him an 
effort. His attempts at general conversation broke down 
into dulness. It occurred to me he might have been in- 
disposed. But before I could frame the inquiry he 
muttered: 



338 A SET OF SIX 

"You find me here very sad." 

"I am sorry for that," I said. "You haven't had 
bad news, I hope.^*" 

It was very kind of me to take an interest. No. It 
was not that. No bad news, thank God. And he 
became very still, as if holding his breath. Then, lean- 
ing forward a little, and in an odd tone of awed em- 
barrassment, he took me into his confidence. 

"The truth is that I have had a very — a very — how 
shall I say? — abominable adventure happen to me." 

The energy of the epithet was sufficiently startling in 
that man of moderate feelings and toned-down vocabu- 
lary. The word unpleasant I should have thought 
would have fitted amply the worst experience likely to 
befall a man of his stamp. And an adventure, too. In- 
credible ! But it is in human nature to believe the worst, 
and I confess I eyed him stealthily, wondering what he 
had been up to. In a moment, however, my unworthy 
suspicions vanished. There was a fundamental refine- 
ment of nature about the man which made me dismiss 
all idea of some more or less disreputable scrape. 

"It is very serious. Very serious." He went on 
nervously. "I will tell you after dinner, if you will 
allow me." 

I expressed my perfect acquiescence by a little bow, 
nothing more. I wished him to understand that I was 
not likely to hold him to that offer, if he thought better 
of it later on. We talked of indifferent things, but with a 



IL CONDE 339 

sense of difficulty quite unlike our former easy, gossipy 
intercourse. The hand raising a piece of bread to his hps, 
I noticed, trembled slightly. This symptom, in regard 
of my reading of the man, was no less than startling. 

In the smoking-room he did not hang back at all. 
Directly we had taken our usual seats he leaned side- 
ways over the arm of his chair and looked straight into 
my eyes earnestly. 

*'You remember," he began, "that day you went 
away.'^ I told you then I would go to the Villa Nazio- 
nale to hear some music in the evening.'* 

I remembered. His handsome old face, so fresh for 
his age, unmarked by any trying experience, appeared 
haggard for an instant. It was like the passing of a 
shadow. Returning his steadfast gaze, I took a sip of 
ray black coffee. He was systematically minute in his 
narrative, simply in order, I think, not to let his ex- 
citement get the better of him. 

After leaving the railway station, he had an ice, and 
read the paper in a cafe. Then he went back to the 
hotel, dressed for dinner, and dined with a good appetite. 
After dinner he lingered in the hall (there were chairs 
and tables there) smoking his cigar; talked to the little 
girl of the Primo Tenore of the San Carlo theatre, and 
exchanged a few words with that "amiable lady," the 
wife of the Primo Tenore. There was no performance 
that evening, and these people were going to the Villa 
also. They went out of the hotel. Very well. 



340 A SET OF SIX 

At the moment of following their example — it was 
half -past nine already — he remembered he had a rather 
large sum of money in his pocket-book. He entered, 
therefore, the oflSce and deposited the greater part of it 
with the book-keeper of the hotel. This done, he took 
a carozella and drove to the seashore. He got out of the 
cab and entered the Villa on foot from the Largo di 
Vittoria end. 

He stared at me very hard. And I understood then 
how really impressionable he was. Every small fact 
and event of that evening stood out in his memory as if 
endowed with mystic significance. If he did not mention 
to me the colour of the pony which drew the carozella, 
and the aspect of the man who drove, it was a mere 
oversight arising from his agitation, which he repressed 
manfully. 

He had then entered the Villa Nazionale from the 
Largo di Vittoria end. The Villa Nazionale is a public 
pleasure-ground laid out in grass plots, bushes, and 
flower-beds between the houses of the Riviera di Chiaja 
and the waters of the bay. Alleys of trees, more or less 
parallel, stretch its whole length — which is considerable. 
On the Riviera di Chiaja side the electric tramcars run 
close to the railings. Between the garden and the sea 
is the fashionable drive, a broad road bordered by a low 
wall, beyond which the Mediterranean splashes with 
gentle murmurs when the weather is fine. 

As life goes on late at night in Naples, the broad 



IL CONDE 841 

drive was all astir with a brilliant swarm of carriage 
lamps moving in pairs, some creeping slowly, others 
running rapidly under the thin motionless line of electric 
lamps defining the shore. And a brilliant swarm of 
stars hung above the land humming with voices, piled 
up with houses, glittering with lights — and over the 
silent flat shadows of the sea. 

The gardens themselves are not very well lit. Our 
friend went forward in the warm gloom, his eyes fixed 
upon a distant luminous region extending nearly across 
the whole width of the Villa, as if the air had glowed 
there with its own cold, bluish, and dazzling light. This 
magic spot, behind the black trunks of trees and masses 
of inky foliage, breathed out sweet sounds mingled with 
bursts of brassy roar, sudden clashes of metal, and grave, 
vibrating thuds. 

As he walked on, all these noises combined together 
into a piece of elaborate music whose harmonious 
phrases came persuasively through a great disorderly 
murmur of voices and shuflSing of feet on the gravel of 
that open space. An enormous crowd immersed in the 
electric light, as if in a bath of some radiant and ten- 
uous fluid shed upon their heads by luminous globes, 
drifted in its hundreds round the band. Hundreds 
more sat on chairs in more or less concentric circles, 
receiving unflinchingly the great waves of sonority that 
ebbed out into the darkness. The Count penetrated 
the throng, drifted with it in tranquil enjoyment, listen- 



342 A SET OF SIX 

ing, and looking at the faces. All people of good society: 
mothers with their daughters, parents and children, 
young men and young women all talking, smiling, 
nodding to each other. Very many pretty faces, and 
very many pretty toilettes. There was, of course, a 
quantity of diverse tjpes: showy old fellows with white 
moustaches, fat men, thin men, officers in uniform; but 
what predominated, he told me, was the South Italian 
type of young man, with a colourless, clear complexion, 
red lips, jet-black little moustache, and liquid black 
eyes so wonderfully effective in leering or scowling. 

Withdrawing from the throng, the Count shared a 
little table in front of the cafe with a young man of just 
such a type. Our friend had some lemonade. The 
young man was sitting moodily before an empty glass. 
He looked up once, and then looked down again. He 
also tilted his hat forward. Like this: 

The Count made a gesture of a man pulling his hat 
down over his brow, and went on : 

"I think to myself: he is sad; something is wrong 
with him; young men have their troubles. I take no 
notice of him, of course. I pay for my lemonade, and 
go away." 

Strolling about in the neighbourhood of the band, 
the Count thinks he saw twice that young man wander- 
ing alone in the crowd. Once their eyes met. It must 
have been the same young man, but there were so many 
there of that type that he could not be certain. More- 



IL CONDE 343 

over, he was not very much concerned except in so far 
that he had been struck by the marked, peevish discon- 
tent of that face. 

Presently, tired of the feeling of confinement one ex- 
periences in a crowd, the Count edged away from the 
band. An alley, very sombre by contrast, presented 
itself invitingly with its promise of solitude and coolness. 
He entered it, walking slowly on till the sound of the 
orchestra became distinctly deadened. Then he walked 
back and turned about once more. He did this several 
times before he noticed that there was somebody occu- 
pying one of the benches. 

The spot being midway between two lamp-posts, the 
light was faint. 

The man lolled back in the corner of his seat, his 
legs stretched out, his arms folded, and his head droop- 
ing on his breast. He never stirred, as though he had 
fallen asleep there, but when the Count passed by next 
time he had changed his attitude. He sat leaning for- 
ward. His elbows were propped on his knees, and his 
hands were rolling a cigarette. He never looked up 
from that occupation. 

The Count continued his stroll away from the band. 
He returned slowly, he said. I can imagine him en- 
joying to the full, but with his usual tranquillity, the 
balminess of this southern night and the sounds of 
music softened delightfully by the distance. 

Presently he approached for the third time the man 



344 A SET OF SIX 

on the garden seat, still leaning forward with his elbows 
on his knees. It was a dejected pose. In the semi- 
obscurity of the alley his high shirt collar and his cuffs 
made small patches of vivid whiteness. The Count 
said that he had noticed him getting up brusquely, as 
if to walk away, but almost before he was aware of it 
the man stood before him asking in a low, gentle tone 
whether the signore would have the kindness to oblige 
him with a light. 

The Count answered this request by a polite " Cer- 
tainly," and dropped his hands with the intention of 
exploring both pockets of his trousers for the matches. 

"I dropped my hands," he said, "but I never put 
them in my pockets. I felt a pressure there." 

He put the tip of his finger on a spot close under his 
breastbone, the very spot of the human body where a 
Japanese gentleman begins the operation of the hara- 
kiri, which is a form of suicide following upon dis- 
honour, upon an intolerable outrage to the delicacy of 
one's feelings. 

"I glance down," the Count continued in an awe- 
struck voice, "and what do I see? A knife! A long 
knife " 

"You don't mean to say," I exclaimed amazed, "that 
you have been held up like this in the Villa at half-past 
ten o'clock, within a stone's throw of a thousand people!" 

He nodded several times, staring at me with all his 
might. 



IL CONDE 345 

"The clarionet," he declared solemnly, "was finish- 
ing his solo, and I assure you I could hear every note. 
Then the band crashed fortissimo, and that creature 
rolled its eyes and gnashed its teeth, hissing at me with 
the greatest ferocity, 'Be silent! No noise or ' " 

I could not get over my astonishment. 

"What sort of knife was it.' " I asked stupidly. 

"A long blade. A stiletto — perhaps a kitchen knife. 
A long narrow blade. It gleamed. And his eyes 
gleamed. His white teeth, too. I could see them. He 
was very ferocious. I thought to myself: Tf I hit him 
he will kill me.' How could I fight with him.? He had 
the knife and I had nothing. I am nearly seventy, you 
know, and that was a young man. I seemed even to 
recognize him. The moody young man of the cafe. 
The young man I met in the crowd. But I could not 
tell. There are so many like him in this country." 

The distress of that moment was reflected in his face. 
I should think that physically he must have been para- 
lyzed by surprise. His thoughts, however, remained 
extremely active. They ranged over every alarming 
possibility. The idea of setting up a vigorous shouting 
for help occurred to him, too. But he did nothing of 
the kind, and the reason why he refrained gave me a 
good opinion of his mental self-possession. He saw in 
a flash that nothing prevented the other from shouting, 
too. 

"That young man might in an instant have thrown 



346 A SET OF SIX 

away his knife and pretended I was the aggressor. Why 
not? He might have said I attacked him. Why not? 
It was one incredible story against another! He might 
have said anything — bring some dishonouring charge 
against me — what do I know? By his dress he was no 
common robber. He seemed to belong to the better 
classes. What could I say? He was an Italian — I am 
a foreigner. Of course I have my passport, and there 
is om* consul — but to be arrested, dragged at night to 
the police office like a criminal !" 

He shuddered. It was in his character to shrink 
from scandal much more than from mere death. And 
certainly for many people this would have always re- 
mained — considering certain peculiarities of Neapoli- 
tan manners — a deucedly queer story. The Count was 
no fool. His belief in the respectable placidity of life 
having received this rude shock, he thought that now 
anything might happen. But also a notion came into 
his head that this young man was perhaps merely an 
infuriated lunatic. 

This was for me the first hint of his attitude toward 
this adventure. In his exaggerated delicacy of senti- 
ment he felt that nobody's self-esteem need be affected 
by what a madman may choose to do to one. It be- 
came apparent, however, that the Count was to be 
denied that consolation. He enlarged upon the abomi- 
nably savage way in which that young man rolled his 
glistening eyes and gnashed his white teeth. The band 



IL CONDE 347 

was going now through a slow movement of solemn 
braying by all the trombones, with deliberately repeated 
bangs of the big drum. 

"But what did you do?" I asked, greatly excited. 

"Nothing," answered the Count. "I let my hands 
hang down very still. I told him quietly I did not 
intend making a noise. He snarled like a dog, then 
said in an ordinary voice: 

" ' Vostro porio folio.' 

"So I naturally," continued the Count — and from 
this point acted the whole thing in pantomime. Hold- 
ing me with his eyes, he went through all the motions 
of reaching into his inside breast-pocket, taking out a 
pocket-book and handing it over. But that young 
man, still bearing steadily on the knife, refused to 
touch it. 

He directed the Count to take the money out him- 
self, received it into his left hand, motioned the pocket- 
book to be returned to the pocket, all this being done to 
the sweet thrilling of flutes and clarionets sustained by 
the emotional drone of the hautboys. And the "young 
man," as the Count called him, said: "This seems very 
little." 

"It was, indeed, only 340 or 360 lire," the Count 
pursued. "I had left my money in the hotel, as you 
know. I told him this was all I had on me. He shook 
his head impatiently and said: 

*** Vostro orologio.*" 



348 A SET OF SIX 

The Count gave me the dumb show of pulling out 
his watch, detaching it. But, as it happened, the valu- 
able gold half -chronometer he possessed had been left at 
a watch-maker's for cleaning. He wore that evening 
(on a leather guard) the Waterbury fifty-franc thing he 
used to take with him on his fishing expeditions. Per- 
ceiving the nature of this booty, the well-dressed robber 
made a contemptuous clicking sound with his tongue 
like this, "Tse-Ah ! " and waved it away hastily. Then, 
as the Count was returning the disdained object to his 
pocket, he demanded with a threateningly increased 
pressure of the knife on the epigastrum, by way of 
reminder: 

" Vostri anelli.'* 

"One of the rings," went on the Count, "was given 
me many years ago by my wife; the other is the signet 
ring of my father. I said, 'No. That you shall not 
have!'" 

Here the Count reproduced the gesture correspond- 
ing to that declaration by clapping one hand upon the 
other, and pressing both thus against his chest. It 
was touching in its resignation. "That you shall not 
have," he repeated firmly and closed his eyes, fully 
expecting — I don't know whether I am right in record- 
ing that such an unpleasant word had passed his lips — 
fully expecting to feel himself being — I really hesitate to 
say — being disembowelled by the push of the long, 
sharp blade resting murderously against the pit of his 



IL CONDE 349 

stomach — the very seat, in all human beings, of 
anguishing sensations. 

Great waves of harmony went on flowing from the 
band. 

Suddenly the Count felt the nightmarish pressure 
removed from the sensitive spot. He opened his eyes. 
He was alone. He had heard nothing. It is probable 
that the "young man" had departed, with light steps, 
some time before, but the sense of the horrid pressure 
had lingered even after the knife had gone. A feeling 
of weakness came over him. He had just time to 
stagger to the garden seat. He felt as though he had 
held his breath for a long time. He sat all in a heap, 
panting with the shock of the reaction. 

The band was executing, with immense bravura, the 
complicated finale. It ended with a tremendous crash. 
He heard it unreal and remote, as if his ears had been 
stopped, and then the hard clapping of a thousand, 
more or less, pairs of hands, like a sudden hail-shower 
passing away. The profound silence which succeeded 
recalled him to himself. 

A tramcar, resembling a long glass box wherein people 
sat with their heads strongly lighted, ran along swiftly 
within sixty yards of the spot where he had been robbed. 
Then another rustled by, and yet another going the 
other way. The audience about the band had broken 
up, and were entering the alley in small, conversing 
groups. The Count sat up straight and tried to think 



350 A SET OF SIX 

calmly of what had happened to him. The vileness 
of it took his breath away again. As far as I can make 
it out he was disgusted with himself. I do not mean 
to say with his behaviour. Indeed, if his pantomimic 
rendering of it for my information was to be trusted, 
it was simply perfect. No, it was not that. He was 
not ashamed. He was shocked at being the selected 
victim, not of robbery so much as of contempt. His 
tranquillity had been wantonly desecrated. His life- 
long, kindly nicety of outlook had been defaced. 

Nevertheless, at that stage, before the iron had time 
to sink deep, he was able to argue himself into com- 
parative equanimity. As his agitation calmed down 
somewhat, he became aware that he was frightfully 
hungry. Yes, hungry. The sheer emotion had made 
him simply ravenous. He left the seat and, after walk- 
ing for some time, found himself outside the gardens 
and before an arrested tramcar, without knowing very 
well how he came there. He got in as if in a dream, by 
a sort of instinct. Fortunately he found in his trouser 
pocket a copper to satisfy the conductor. Then the 
car stopped, and as everybody was getting out he got 
out, too. He recognized the Piazza San Ferdinando, 
but apparently it did not occur to him to take a cab and 
drive to the hotel. He remained in distress on the 
Piazza like a lost dog, thinking vaguely of the best way 
of getting something to eat at once. 

Suddenly he remembered his twenty-franc piece. 



IL CONDE 351 

He explained to me that he had that piece of French 
gold for something like three years. He used to carry 
it about with him as a sort of reserve in case of accident. 
Anybody is liable to have his pocket picked — a quite 
different thing from a brazen and insulting robbery. 

The monumental arch of the Galleria Umberto 
faced him at the top of a noble flight of stairs. He 
climbed these without loss of time, and directed his 
steps toward the Cafe Umberto. All the tables outside 
were occupied by a lot of people who were drinking. 
But as he wanted something to eat, he went into 
the cafe, which is divided into aisles by square pillars set 
all round with long looking-glasses. The Count sat 
down on a red plush bench against one of these pillars, 
waiting for his risotto. And his mind reverted to his 
abominable adventure. 

He thought of the moody, well-dressed young man, 
with whom he had exchanged glances in the crowd 
around the bandstand, and who, he felt confident, was 
the robber. Would he recognize him again? Doubt- 
less. But he did not want ever to see him again. The 
best thing was to forget this humiliating episode. 

The Count looked round anxiously for the coming of 
his risotto, and, behold, to the left against the wall — 
there sat the young man. He was alone at a table, 
with a bottle of some sort of wine or syrup and a carafe 
of iced water before him. The smooth olive cheeks, the 
red lips, the little jet-black moustache turned up gal- 



352 A SET OF SIX 

lantly, the fine black eyes a little heavy and shaded by 
long eyelashes, that peculiar expression of cruel discon- 
tent to be seen only in the busts of some Roman emper- 
ors — it was he, no doubt at all. But that was a type. 
The Count looked away hastily. The young officer over 
there reading a paper was like that, too. Same type. 
Two young men farther away playing draughts also 
resembled 

The Count lowered his head with the fear in his heart 
of being everlastingly haunted by the vision of that 
young man. He began to eat his risotto. Presently 
he heard the young man on his left call the waiter in a 
bad-tempered tone. 

At the call, not only his own waiter, but two other 
idle waiters belonging to a quite different row of tables, 
rushed toward him with obsequious alacrity, which is 
not the general characteristic of the waiters in the Cafe 
Umberto. The young man muttered something, and 
one of the waiters walking rapidly to the nearest door 
called out into the Galleria: "Pasquale! 0! Pas- 
quale!" 

Everybody knows Pasquale, the shabby old fellow 
who, shuffling between the tables, offers for sale cigars, 
cigarettes, picture postcards, and matches to the clients 
of the cafe. He is in many respects an engaging 
scoundrel. The Count saw the gray-haired, unshaven 
ruffian enter the cafe, the glass case hanging from his 
neck by a leather strap, and, at a word from the waiter, 



IL CONDE 353 

make his shuffling way with a sudden spurt to the young 
man's table. The young man was in need of a cigar 
with which Pasquale served him fawningly. The old 
pedlar was going out, when the Count, on a sudden 
impulse, beckoned to him. 

Pasquale approached, the smile of deferential recog- 
nition combining oddly with the cynical, searching ex- 
pression of his eyes. Leaning his case on the table, he 
lifted the glass lid without a word. The Count took a 
box of cigarettes and urged by a fearful curiosity, 
asked as casually as he could: 

"Tell me, Pasquale, who is that young signore sitting 
over there.''" 

The other bent over his box confidentially. 

"That, Signor Conde," he said, beginning to rearrange 
his wares busily and without looking up, "that is a 
young Cavaliere of a very good family from Bari. He 
studies in the University here, and is the chief, capo, of 
an association of young men — of very nice young men." 

He paused, and then, with mingled discretion and 
pride of knowledge, murmured the explanatory word 
"Camorra" and shut down the lid. "A very power- 
ful Camorra," he breathed out. "The professors them- 
selves respect it greatly . . . una lira e cinquanii 
centesimi, Signor Conde.'^ 

Our friend paid with the gold piece. While Pasquale 
was making up the change, he observed that the young 
man, of whom he had heard so much in a few words. 



354 A SET OF SIX 

was watching the transaction covertly. After the old 
vagabond had withdrawn with a bow, the Count settled 
with the waiter and sat still. A numbness, he told me. 
had come over him. 

The young man paid, too, got up and crossed over, 
apparently for the purpose of looking at himself in the 
mirror set in the pillar nearest to the Count's seat. He 
was dressed all in black with a dark green bow tie. 
The Count looked round, and was startled by meeting 
a vicious glance out of the corners of the other's eyes. 
The young Cavaliere from Bari (according to Pasquale; 
but Pasquale is, of course, an accomplished liar) went 
on arranging his tie, settling his hat before the glass, 
and meantime he spoke just loud enough to be heard 
b}^ the Count. He spoke through his teeth with the 
most insulting venom of contempt and gazing straight 
into the mirror. 

*'Ah! So you have some gold on you — you old liar 
— you old hirha — you furfante! But you are not done 
with me yet." 

The fiendishness of his expression vanished like 
lightning, and he lounged out of the cafe with a moody, 
impassive face. 

The poor Count, after telling me this last episode, 
fell back trembling in his chair. His forehead broke 
into perspiration. There was a wanton insolence in 
the spirit of this outrage which appalled even me. 
What it was to the Count's delicacy I won't attempt to 



IL CONDE 355 

guess. I am sure that if he had not been too refined 
to do such a blatantly vulgar thing as dying from 
apoplexy in a cafe, he would have had a fatal stroke 
there and then. All irony apart, my difficulty was 
to keep him from seeing the full extent of my com- 
miseration. He shrank from every excessive sentiment, 
and my commiseration was practically unbounded. 
It did not surprise me to hear that he had been in bed a 
week. He had got up to make his arrangements for 
leaving southern Italy for good and all. 

And the man was convinced that he could not live 
through a whole year in any other climate ! 

No argument of mine had any effect. It was not 
timidity, though he did say to me once: "You do not 
know what a Camorra is, my dear sir. I am a marked 
man." He was not afraid of what could be done to 
him. His delicate conception of his dignity was de- 
filed by a degrading experience. He couldn't stand 
that. No Japanese gentleman, outraged in his exag- 
gerated sense of honour, could have gone about his 
preparations for hara-kiri with greater resolution. To 
go home really amounted to suicide for the poor Coimt. 

There is a saying of Neapolitan patriotism, intended 
for the information of foreigners, I presume: "See 
Naples and then die." Vedi Napoli e poi mori. It is 
a saying of excessive vanity, and everytliing excessive 
was abhorrent to the nice moderation of the poor Count. 
Yet, as I was seeing him off at the railway station, I 



S56 A SET OF SIX 

thought he was behaving with singular fidehty to its 
conceited spirit. Vedi Napolil . . . He had seen 
it ! He had seen it with startling thoroughness — and now 
he was going to his grave. He was going to it by the 
train de luxe of the International Sleeping Car Company, 
via Trieste and Vienna. As the four long, sombre 
coaches pulled out of the station I raised my hat with 
the solemn feeling of paying the last tribute of respect to 
a funeral cortege. II Conde's profile, much aged already, 
glided away from me in stony immobility, behind the 
lighted pane of glass — Vedi Napoli e poi mori! 



THE END 



THE ROMANTIC STORY 

OF 

JOSEPH CONRAD 

I. INTRODUCTORY 

II. BIOGRAPHICAL AND AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL 
III. NOVELS AND STORIES 




THE ROMANTIC STORY 
OF JOSEPH CONRAD 



IN 1874 a Polish lad, seventeen years of age, born and 
brought up far removed from sight or sound of the 
ocean, determined to go to sea. It had been the dream 
of his boyhood. Standing as a child before a map of 
the world he had placed his finger upon it saying: 
"I shall go there", there being the Congo. And to the 
Congo he finally went. In the face of strong parental 
opposition the lad actually went to sea, shipping at 
Marseilles. After three years' service he put foot for 
the first time on English soil. He spoke French 
fluently in addition to his native tongue, but not one 
word of English did he know. 

Sixteen years later, or in 1894, after continuous 
service in the British Merchant Marine, this same lad, 
then a man of thirty-seven, quit the sea for good with 
the manuscript of an unfinished novel in his bag. Till 
then the novel had had but one reader, beside the 
author: a young Cambridge student, outward bound 
to Australia, who died shortly after the vessel touched. 
Are you curious to know the name of this PoUsh sailor 
just stepping ashore and destined to begin a new career 
strangely diflFerent from his sea life? Would you like 
to know what became of the manuscript he had in his 
bag — what its name was? 

The manuscript was that of " Almayer's Folly". 

The sailor-author, by that time a naturalized British 
subject and many times oflBcer and master of various 
craft, was Joseph Conrad. 



Comment can lend little to the essential romance 
of these facts. They are of the unbelievable things — a 
web spun of chance such as Conrad himself has woven in 
his tales. \Miat more improbable than that a Polish 
youth, born inland, should have a passion for a sea- 
faring life; that he should choose English for his speech 
above the Polish and French that he knew; that he 
should set down, in the odd moments of a sailor's 
busy life, and in grave doubt of its worth, a story of 
his adventures in the Malayan Archipelago; and that 
this book, when completed, should mark his entrance 
as a permanent figure into English literature? And 
yet this is precisely what happened to Joseph Conrad. 

Some of the remarkable features of his case struck 
his examiner when he presented himself for a com- 
mission in the British merchant service, for the official 
asked : 

"You are of Polish extraction?" And then: "Not 
many of your nationality in our service. . . . An 
inland people, aren't you?" 

Upon which Conrad comments: "Very much so. 
We were remote from the sea, not only by situation, 
but also from a complete absence of indirect communi- 
cation, not being a commercial nation at all, but purely 
agricultural." 

During the sixteen years of his life at sea Conrad 
visited almost every corner of the globe except North 
America. A chart, just completed, of the location of 
his stories indicates China, India, the Malay Archi- 
pelago, Sumatra, Australia, South America, both West 
and East coasts, the West Indies, the Congo, the Red 
Sea, Spain, France, England, and Russia. 

On a large part of his journeyings, now as ordinary 
seaman, then officer, and finally master, the manu- 



script of " Almayer^s Folly" accompanied Conrad, grow- 
ing a little at a time. It was begun when he was 
about thirty-two and was still unfinished when he came 
ashore in 1894, broken in health by a terrible experi- 
ence in the Congo. The story was completed a short 
time later and we learn from G. F. W. Hope, an old sea 
friend of Conrad's who sailed in the Duke of Suther- 
land, that Conrad came occasionally to the Hope 
home nearby in Essex County to read portions of the 
story aloud to them. It is to Mr. and Mrs. Hope that 
"Lord Jim" is dedicated. 

How "Abnayer's Folly'' was read by Edward 
Garnett for an English publisher and issued in 1895; 
and how Conrad's first substantial recognition came 
in 1897 when W. E. Henley published "The Nigger 
of the 'Narcissus' " in The New Review (inexplicably 
suppressing a preface which has since become a classic 
as the artist's profession of faith!) are all chapters in 
the amazing story of Joseph Conrad — a story that 
surpasses in romantic realism anything that he has 
written. 

For the last two or three years the influence of 
Joseph Conrad has been growing steadily in this 
country. There has been a widespread awakening to 
the wonder and beauty and fascination of his tales. 
Everywhere one finds him spoken of, but for the most 
part merely as the author of this or that book and with 
only meagre information of his own extraordinary life. 
Now it is quite true that one can read and under- 
stand and enjoy Joseph Conrad's stories without any 
knowledge of his personal history. He needs no inter- 
preter — his books require no key. Talk to the con- 
trary is stupid and uninformed, and chiefly thn result 
of ignorance of his stories. No writer of English 



touches more directly or more surely the abiding 
human emotions. 

At the same time it is diflScult to think of any other 
great writer at all comparable to Conrad between 
whose chosen work and whose writing there appears to 
be such a complete volte-face, and yet between which 
there is so real a dependence and gracious spiritual re- 
lation. Conrad is not just "writing stories"; his books 
in very truth are fruits in the spiritual order of the 
grace of the sea; they are acts of piety to the memory 
of those days when chance, blind and inscrutable, 
marked him with the indelible sign of the sea. That 
is the illumination for all who will read the record of 
Joseph Conrad's life. And having once grasped this 
truth, his stories are forever unfolding in one's mind 
unguessed meanings full of the loveliness of mirrored 
youth, of that "something sentient which seems to dwell 
in ships", and of a filial devotion to the life of the sea. 

The biographical matter that follows, together with 
the summary of the books, is taken in a much condensed 
form from Richard Curie's ''Joseph Conrad", a recent 
work which it will well repay the reader to consult in 
connection with Conrad's stories. 

E. F. Saxton. 

n 

Biographical and Autobiographical 

{Condensed from Richard Curie's *' Joseph Conrad") 

Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski was born in the 
Ukraine in the South of Poland on 6th December, 1857. 
In 1861 he removed to Warsaw with his parents, and 
in 186*2 his father, who had been deeply implicated in 
the last Polish rebellion, was banished to Vologda by 
the Russian Government. His wife and son followed 



him into exile. In 1865 Conrad's mother died and his 
father sent him back to the Ukraine to stay with his 
maternal uncle (who is spoken of with such affectionate 
regard in "Some Reminiscences")*, where he remained 
for five years. That was the happiest period of Con- 
rad's childhood — this home life of the country con- 
sciously enjoyed and revelled in. Conrad's first 
recollection of public matters was the liberation of the 
serfs, on the committee of which his uncle was one of 
the leading spirits. In 1869 Conrad's father was freed 
on the ground that he was too ill to be dangerous any 
longer. He carried off his son to Cracow, the old 
Polish capital, and died there in 1870. Conrad was 
sent to the gj'mnasium of St. Anne, the foremost public 
school of the city. There he came under the care of a 
tutor who influenced him profoundly and who, accord- 
ing to "Some Reminiscences", was a man of remarkable 
intuition. He was put forward by the relations to 
counteract Conrad's strange and inborn desire for a 
sea-life, but after some earnest and futile talks he 
realized that his efforts would be useless and ceased 
to trouble the boy. 

Conrad's decision was, indeed, final. Brought up 
in a country without a coast, in a society where he 
saw no English (though he knew some of the finest 
English literature from translations by his father), he 
had yet resolved that he would be an English seaman 
of the merchant service. And against all obstacles he 
carried out his plan. It was in 1874 that he went to 
sea. Marseilles was his " jumping-off ground", but it 
was some years before he was able to sail under the 
Red Ensign. For it was not till three years later that 

•Published in the United States under the title "A Personal 
Record." 



he set foot in England. Before that he had some ad- 
ventures in the Mediterranean and had twice been to 
the West Indies. He calls this his wild-oats-sowing 
period. In May, 1878, he landed at Lowestoft and first 
touched English soil. At that time he did not know a 
word of Enghsh, but he learnt it rapidly, being helped 
in a general sense, to some extent, by a local boat- 
builder who understood French. For five months 
he was on board a Lowestoft coaster. The Skimmer of 
the Seas, that traded between that port and Newcastle. 
In October, 1878, he joined the Duke of Sutherland, 
bound for Australia, as ordinary seaman. Of eighteen 
men before the mast all were English save Conrad, 
a Norwegian, two Americans, and a St. Kitts negro 
called James Wait — a name used just twenty years 
later for the negro in "The Nigger of the 'Narcissus.'" 

From now onward till 1894, when he finally left 
the sea, Conrad's life was the usual life of a deep water 
seaman. He passed for second mate in 1879 and be- 
came a Master in the English Merchant Service in the 
year of his naturalization in 1884. In 1890 and again 
in 1894 (the year before his uncle's death) he revisited 
the Ukraine. 

I think I cannot give a better glimpse of Conrad's 
existence during all these years than by jotting down, 
in order, a rough list of the ships he served in, either as 
oiBScer or in command, from 1880 till 1894. This is a 
list I scribbled from Conrad's dictation, and against 
each name he has added the titles of those stories of 
his which the different ships suggest. Of course this 
must be taken for what it is worth — a single episode, 
perhaps only a single name, in a story may be associated 
with a certain ship, or, on the other hand, the whole 
story may be strongly autobiographical and reminis- 



cent. And then, again, different memories are some- 
times welded together into one story. In "Chance", 
for instance, there is an episode connected with the 
Riversdale and another connected with the Torrens. 
However, here is the list: I give the ships, and then, 
in brackets, I give the stories they individually call 
up in Conrad's mind. 



S.S. Loch-Etive 
Palestine . 
Riversdale 

Narcissus . 



S.S. John P. Best 
Tilkhurst . 
Falconhurst 
Highland Forest 

S.S. Vidar 



Otago . 

S.S. Roi de Beiges 
Torrens 

S.S. Adowa. 



("The Mirror of the Sea"). 

("Youth"). 

("The Mirror of the Sea"; 
"Chance"). 

("The Nigger of the Nar- 
cissus"; "The IMirror of 
the Sea"). 

("Typhoon"). 

("The Mirror of the Sea"). 

("The Mirror of the Sea"). 

("The Mirror of the Sea"). 

(All the Malay books; "Ty- 
phoon " ; "Some Remi- 
niscences"). 

("Falk"; "'Twixt Land and 
Sea"; "The Mirror of 
the Sea"; "Some Remi- 
niscences"). 

("An Outpost of Progress"; 
"Heart of Darkness"). 

("Chance"; "The Mirror of 
the Sea"; "Some Remi- 
niscences"). 

("Some Reminiscences"). 



In 1894, Conrad finally left the sea. He had never 
fully recovered from a severe fever that had invalided 



him from the Congo, and his health was now more or 
less broken. He did not know what to do with himself 
(he had still some idea of going to sea again) , but, almost 
as an afterthought, he sent in to Fisher Unwin the novel 
which he had begun about 1889 and which he had 
completed in odd moments — the novel of "Almayer's 
Folly". After waiting for three or four months he 
heard, to his intense surprise, that it was accepted 
(Edward Garnett, as reader, was responsible) and from 
henceforward his life is mainly the history of his books, 
and does not concern us. I will just add that he 
married in 1896 and has since lived mostly in Kent 
where he still resides. The turmoil of a creator's 
existence has no outward adventure save the merit and 
reception of his creations, and in that (amongst other 
things) it differs from the wild and vigorous life of the 
sea. For long Conrad was only the novelist of a small 
following (it was a landmark in his career when Henley 
accepted "The Nigger of the Narcissus" for The New 
Review in 1897), but, as every one knows, that following 
has widened and widened till it now represents the 
whole intellectual world. 

Of Conrad's two books of memories and impressions, 
"The Mirror of the Sea" (1906) is the first. It may 
be described as a sort of prose-poem about the sea, and 
a poem founded not alone upon flights of imagery but 
upon profound realism and knowledge of detail. Its 
basis of personal reminiscence expands in the rare 
qualities of poetry and romance. "The Mirror of the 
Sea" is the most eloquent of all Conrad's books. 

"Some Reminiscences" (American ed. "A Personal 
Record "), 1912, followed six years later. Less eloquent 
than "The Mirror of the Sea, "it is more urbane and more 
closely knit. His descriptions of people such as his 



uncle, his tutor, and the original of Almayer, are telling 
in the accuracy and detail of the portraits, and the whole 
book is enlivened by the firm lightness of his touch. 
Moreover, it contains passages of exceptional splendor. 
To read these books sympathetically is to under- 
stand Conrad's attitude toward life and art. His 
works should never again be mysterious to us, as the 
works of the few men of real temperamental genius 
are so apt to be. No, these two books of Conrad's 
are the true "open sesame" to his novels and stories. 

m 

Novels and Stories 

{Condensed from Richard Curie's "Joseph Conrad") 

Up to the present Conrad has published ten novels 
(two of them in collaboration with Ford Madox 
Hueflfer) and five volumes of stories. I will examine 
his own novels to begin with. 

His first book is "Almayer's Folly" (1895). This 
"story of an Eastern River" is one of illusion, weariness, 
and irresistible passion. Almayer is the white trader, 
the only white trader, of Sambir, a distant and obscure 
settlement up the river Pantai of an island in the Dutch 
East Indies. It is not one of Conrad's easiest stories 
to read. But it is an imposing effort of its kind, this 
sinister revelation of a tropical backwater. 

Conrad's next book is "An Outcast of the Islands" 
(1896). This is another tragic story of Sambir and 
the Pantai, and it would be almost better to consider 
it before "Almayer's Folly" because it treats of a date 
fifteen to twenty years anterior to that novel. In "An 
Outcast of the Islands" Almayer is still young. The 



story is one of violent emotion soon spent — like a 
tropical downpour. There is scheming in it, hatred, 
and passion. As in "Almayer's Folly" the teeming, 
patient, and silent life of the wilds weighs upon every 
person and thing, coloring the whole aspect of nature 
not only in a material but in a spiritual sense. 

"The Nigger of the Narcissus'' (1899) is Conrad'j' 
third novel. It is the story of one voyage of the sailing- 
ship Narcissus from Bombay to London — a story 
dealing with calms and with storms, with mutiny on 
the high seas, with bravery and with cowardice, with 
tumultuous life, and with death, the releaser from toil. 
This is one of Conrad's most original conceptions. 
He alone has ever written such a book. It has the 
vividness of an actual experience touched by the 
magic glitter of remembrance. The descriptions of the 
sea and of the life on board are strangely beautiful. 

"Lord Jim" (1900) is fourth in the list. It is a 
story of remorse and of the effort to regain self-respect 
for a deed of fatal and unexpected cowardice. The 
sea and secluded Eastern settlements are the back- 
ground. There can be little doubt that Conrad's fame 
as a novelist rests chiefly upon "Lord Jim". And 
perhaps the main reason for this is that it raises a 
fierce moral issue in a very definite form and carries it 
through on a high level of creative intensity. 

"Nostromo" (1903) is the fifth novel by Conrad. 
It is the history of a South American revolution. But 
on this leading theme there hang a multitude of side- 
issues and of individual experiences. In this story of 
vast riches, of unbridled passions, of patriotism, of 
greed, of barbaric cruelty, of the most debased and of 
the most noble impulses, the whole history of South 
America seems to be epitomized. 



"Nostromo" is Conrad's longest novel, and, in my 
opinion, it is by far his greatest. It is a book singularly 
little known and one which many people find a difficulty 
in reading (probably owing to the confused way in 
which time is indicated), but it is one of the most 
astounding tours de force in all literature. For sheer 
creative genius it overtops all Conrad's work. 

In contrast to "Nostromo", "The Secret Agent" 
(1907) is a comparatively simple book. It is a novel 
treating of the underworld of London life — the under- 
world of anarchists and spies. Verloc, "the secret 
agent," is ostensibly an anarchist, but in reality a spy 
of one of the big embassies. 

"Under Western Eyes" (1911) gets its name from 
the fact that it is told by an old English teacher of 
languages in Geneva, partly in his own words and partly 
from a diary. The book is written with great precision 
and subtlety of language, and marks a step forward 
in Conrad's exactitude of style. The description of 
the winter night of Russia, of the Russian colony in 
Geneva, and of the sister and mother of Haldin are 
particularly striking. 

"Chance" (1911) is Conrad's latest novel. As its 
name implies, the irony of chance is the leading link 
of the whole structure. This is probably the hardest 
of Conrad's books about which one can make any 
conclusive judgment. Admirers of his earlier work 
may consider it almost arid, but that is simply to 
misunderstand the recent development of Conrad's art. 
For the truth is that "Chance" is a work of the finest 
shades and of the highest tension. It is the most 
finished of all his books. 

^Yith "Chance" we come to the end of the novels 
written solely by Conrad. There still remain to be 



considered the two novels he wrote in conjunction 
with Ford Hueffer, but before examining them I will 
say something about his five volumes of stories. 

The first of these is " Tales of Unrest " ( 1 898) . There 
are five stories in this book — "Karain", "The Idiots", 
"An Outpost of Progress", "The Return", and "The 
Lagoon". The most remarkable is "The Return", 
which is well seconded by "An Outpost of Progress". 
The most beautiful is certainly "The Lagoon" (it is 
particularly interesting from the fact that it is the first 
short story Conrad ever wrote), while "Karain" is the 
sunniest, and "The Idiots" the most realistic. 

"Youth" (1902) comes next in order. It is as 
famous amongst Conrad's volumes of stories as "Lord 
Jim" is amongst his novels — and more deservedly so. 
For it contains in "Youth" the most romantic, in 
"Heart of Darkness" the most terrible, and in "The 
End of the Tether" the most pathetic story Conrad 
has ever written. "Youth", itself, is certainly one of 
the very finest things in Conrad, a gorgeous dream, a 
\'ision of the rare and transient illusion of youth. 

"Typhoon" (1903) is Conrad's third volume of 
stories.* It is made up of four tales: "Typhoon", 
"Amy Foster", "Falk", "To-morrow". The first 
and longest of these is, as its name implies, the de- 
scription of a storm — a typhoon in the China Seas. 
"Typhoon", itself, is the most prodigious description 
of a storm in the whole of literature. As a piece of 
word-painting it is unrivalled, and it is at the same 
time a notable study in psychology and contains some 
of Conrad's cleverest character drawing on a small 

•Note: In the American Edition " Typhoon" is published sepa- 
rately, while the volume entitled "Falk" contains the story of that 
name along with "Amy Foster" and "To-morrow." 



scale. "Amy Foster", on the other hand, has the 
sober atmosphere of Conrad's later method. It is a 
delicate, faithful, and precise picture. "Falk" has 
the fertile elaboration of Conrad's most expansive work. 
It is a study in personality and atmosphere that exhales 
the warm breath of a tropical Eastern river. "To- 
morrow" is a very poignant study, and one touched 
by the breath of symbolism. 

"A Set of SLx" (1908) is the next collection of stories. 
The six tales of this book present a striking change in 
Conrad's technique. Their atmosphere of romance 
tends to the inward contemplation of a mood rather 
than the piling up of substantial effect. They are, 
in many externals, very unlike his earlier work. Of 
the individual stories, "Caspar Ruiz" is hardly con- 
vincing — especially in its later phases ; " The Informer '* 
is sardonically icy; "The Brute", "An Anarchist", 
and "II Conde" are pathetic, exciting, and beautifully 
proportioned; "The Duel" is a work of wide imagina- 
tive impulse — a wonderful reconstruction of the Na- 
poleonic atmosphere. As a sustained effort in Conrad's 
sardonic later style "The Duel" is unmatched. 

Conrad's most recent volume of stories is " 'Twixt 
Land and Sea" (1912), and it contains three tales — 
"A Smile of Fortune", "The Secret Sharer", and 
"Freya of the Seven Islands." In subject and tech- 
nique these three stories are a return to Conrad's 
earlier work while they retain the finish of his later 
period. The style is extremely distinguished and the 
psychology subtle without being at all overdone. The 
first of them," A Smile of Fortune", is a very uncommon 
study in the bizarre backwaters of character. As for 
"The Secret Sharer", that is certainly a marvelous 
creation in atmosphere and in the psychology' of the 



hunted. The last and longest tale, "Freya of the 
Seven Islands", is, perhaps, the most painful Conrad 
has ever written. There is something deeply melan- 
choly in this drama set amidst the treacherous splendor 
of Eastern Seas. 

I will say a few words now about the two novels in 
the writing of which Conrad collaborated with Ford 
Hueffer. The first of these is "The Inheritors" (1901). 
It is a fantastic story about a new race of people, 
dwellers in a fourth dimension, who mix indistinguish- 
ably with ordinary mortals and gradually oust them 
from all positions of supreme power. The internal 
evidence of Conrad's collaboration is slight — visible, 
indeed, only in the negative qualities of proportion 
and restraint. 

"Romance" (1903) stands on a very different footing. 
As far as I can judge Conrad must have had a great 
deal to do with the middle part of this book. It is a 
novel of adventure of ninety years since, starting with 
an exploit amongst smugglers on the Kentish coast, 
and then taking the young hero, John Kemp, to 
Jamaica and on to Cuba where he undergoes incredible 
hardships and dangers, and gains the love of a Spanish 
girl of startling beauty and fabulous wealth. There 
are plots and counterplots on every page and murderous 
pirates, there are deaths, and there is revenge, and 
always there is danger and passionate love. It is a 
sheer novel of adventure, and the glory of it lies in its 
color and shifting lights. 




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